Human rights and taxation: Commission submits evidence to the Scottish Government

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has submitted a detailed response to the Scottish Government’s consultation Tax policy and the Budget - a Framework for Tax

The consultation sought views on the overarching approach to tax policy and how the Scottish Government should use its devolved and local tax powers as part of the Scottish Budget 2022-23.

In its submission, the Commission emphasises that the Scottish Government’s obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights apply to all government activity, including decisions around how resources are generated.

The Commission makes the following key points:

  1. COVID-19 has reinforced the importance of taking a Scottish approach to taxation, including considering options for restructuring of taxes which are devolved, and taking a human rights based approach.
  1. The addition of two new principles within the draft Framework for Tax are welcome from a human rights perspective: undertaking engagement with stakeholders and taking a firm approach to potential tax avoidance.
  1. Quality participation by citizens in developing taxation policy must be active, free, and meaningful and give attention to issues of accessibility. The participation of those whose voices are least often heard, often requires additional time and support.
  1. It is disappointing not to see the government’s human rights obligations explicitly reflected within the framework and its strategic objectives. With the forthcoming Human Rights Bill, which will reassert Scotland’s commitment to the UK’s international human rights obligations, it is important that it is well understood these obligations apply to all government activity, including decisions around resource generation.
  1. The Commission recommends that the Scottish Government engage in an Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessment process, the value of which (and guidance to undertake) has already been developed collaboratively between the Scottish Human Rights Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The Commission’s latest evidence forms part of its longstanding programme of work on human rights budgeting.