The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (the Universal Declaration), as the preeminent statement of human rights, informs numerous cognate covenants and declarations of rights, and charters of rights included in national constitutions. Unlike the rights declarations of the Enlightenment, the Universal Declaration affirms broad welfare rights, in addition to civil and political rights. No right or set of rights is superior to another; they are indivisible, interdependent and interrelated.

Declarations of rights may also include duties. The Organization of American States’ American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man 1948 (“the American Declaration”), for example, includes statements about broad civic and social duties, and a specific list of duties that approximately reciprocate the rights affirmed. The American Declaration, which was concluded eight months before, and influenced the drafting of, the Universal Declaration, affirms a duty to pay tax. Article 29(1) of the Universal Declaration includes a general duties provision: “Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.” Do the vaguely stated duties recorded in the Universal Declaration incorporate a duty to pay tax in a way comparable to the explicit duty included in the American Declaration?

In answering that question, this Article seeks to link welfare rights and duties, in particular, a duty to pay tax. The Article considers the negotiations that led to the vague formulation of article 29(1) of the Universal Declaration in order to understand why, when we may claim numerous, specific human rights that the state has undertaken to uphold and must pay for, in the major Anglophone countries, we do not have an express duty founded in human rights doctrine to pay tax.



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