Panel discussion - Tax abuses, poverty and human rights, 13 May 2014

L-R: Lloyd Lipsett, Anders Dahlbeck, Shirley Pouget, Celia Wells  L-R Anders Dahlbeck, Shirley Pouget, Celia Wells.Ben Dickinson, Thomas Pogge

On Tuesday 13 May 2014, the IBAHRI, the University of Bristol Law School and Policy Bristol hosted an expert panel debate on tax justice issues, at the Arnolfini Dark Studio in Bristol, England.

The discussion was moderated by IBAHRI Senior Programme Lawyer Shirley Pouget and the expert panel included:

  • Thomas Pogge, Director of the Global Justice Program, the Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale University, and Chair of the IBAHRI Task Force on Illicit Financial Flows Poverty and Human Rights;
  • Celia Wells, Head of Bristol University Law School and IBAHRI Task Force Member;
  • Lloyd Lipsett, Advisor at Shift and IBAHRI Task Force rapporteur;
  • Anders Dahbeck, Tax Justice Policy Advisor at ActionAid; and
  • Ben Dickinson, Head of Tax and development at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The event follows the publication of the IBAHRI Task Force Report Tax Abuses, Poverty and Human Rights in October 2013, examining tax abuses from the novel perspective of human rights law and policy. Drawing on case studies from Brazil, Jersey and the SADC region, the report analyses how tax abuses deprive governments of the resources needed to combat poverty and fulfil their human rights obligations. Click here to read more about the IBAHRI Task Force Report.

On 13 May, the expert panel - including members of the IBAHRI Task Force - discussed challenging legal and policy questions such as: where should the line between legitimate tax avoidance and immoral tax abuse be drawn? What are the responsibilities of governments, corporations and legal professionals in combating tax abuse? And how can the law protect human rights through minimising immoral tax practices?

The discussion was timely as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights is scheduled to submit a report concerning the impact on human rights of fiscal and tax policies at the 26th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, to be held in June 2014. This is indicative of the increasing international recognition of such policies as essential tools for states to meet their human rights commitments and combat poverty. The IBAHRI promotes further research, commentary and debate in this field, believing that continued attention and discussion on tax justice issues from a human rights perspective is important for developing coherent international standards and promoting good practices for states, businesses and their advisers. Click here to read more about the IBAHRI Task Force on Illicit Financial Flows, Poverty and Human Rights.