Why it is important to define Tax justice as a human rights issue

On the 10th December 2018, Uganda celebrated the 70th anniversary of the universal declaration of human rights, a commitment that gave birth to the human rights movement. Uganda is a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights (ICESR), the International Covenant on Political and Civil rights and the International covenant on the Rights of a child, the African charter on human and people’s rights, African Charter on the rights and welfare of the child, among others and has a bill of rights in its constitution to guarantee these rights. Almost all these treaties and constitution impose an obligation on the state to ‘undertake measures’ for the implementation of these rights, Al Since 1948, a lot of progress has been made on many a fronts (like creation of Human Rights Bodies(Human Rights Commission, Equal opportunities Commission, etc), Courts, watch dogs, etc) when it comes to attainment and enjoyment of these human rights. However, a lot still needs to be done if all Ugandans are to enjoy their  inherently guaranteed rights.

Taxation plays a big role in the attainment of cultural, social, and economic rights. This is because these rights require the state to have vast resources if they are to be implemented. Uganda needs enormous resources to invest in key welfare related sectors like education, health, social security, poverty alleviation programs, among others which are all key in achieving the corresponding human rights. If the government of Uganda continues to tolerate resource diversion and loss from Uganda through Illicit financial flows, then it cannot claim insufficient resources as a justification for not implementing economic, social and cultural rights. It is important to note that although in the past, the nexus between tax justice and human rights was made only in reference to economic, social and cultural rights, today it is beyond question that compliance with all human rights, including civil and political rights, requires state resource allocation. Civil and political rights, such as the right to due process, fair and equitable elections and respect for freedom of information, all require adequately funded institutions and therefore too need vast resource investments.

Tax Justice in simple terms is the phenomena where every person (legal persons included) pays their fair share of tax and the resultant revenue used for the benefit of the tax payers. The issue of tax justice is at the core of the realisation of all human rights in Uganda since it guarantees that the state domestically mobilises resources to invest in key sectors. Our tax policies and systems are pivotal in the attainment of our human right, this is because these polices and systems are responsible for generating revenue, redistributing income, repricing of certain goods and services and a basis for representation.  Given that taxation is the most sustainable way of financing Uganda’s development Agenda, this by extension makes taxation one of the most key pillars of attaining an enjoying Human Rights in Uganda given that the attainment and enjoyment of most human right is what is known as development. Tax Justice should eventually lead to reduced economic, social and geographical disparities, provide for wealth redistribution in order to redress systemic discrimination and led towards substantive equality.

Taxation is the foundation of the social contract which is the origin of number of state responsibility towards its citizens including human rights, and therefore the level of the citizen’s engagement in formation and implementation of tax policies will determine the level of enjoyment of these Human Rights in Uganda. The American Revolution was started on a simple idea of no taxation without representation, that being a tax payer is the basis from which a person derives their power to demand for inherently guaranteed rights and benefits from the state. Let us seek, as young people , to have  meaningful participation in the making and implementation of our tax policies and systems so as to contribute to the attainment of human rights in Uganda.

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