35 Intertax 331 (2007)
Taxpayer's Rights and the Role of the Tax Ombudsman: An Analysis from a Spanish and Comparative Law Perspective, The

handle is hein.kluwer/intrtax0035 and id is 313 raw text is: I

University of Madrid

1. Ombudsman: history and development
Looking back over the history of the Ombudsman
around the world, this could be described as a
combination of three interrelated developments,
summed up by: proliferation - as regards numbers,
diversification - as regards categories and types, and
mutation and variation - as regards functions and
By 2006, the Ombudsman Office, at the national level
of government, existed in approximately 125 countries
around the world. Some countries have Ombudsman
offices at national and sub national levels, such as
Australia, Argentina, Mexico and Spain, while other
nations have Ombudsman offices only at the sub
national government level, as in Canada, India and
Italy. Public sector Ombudsman offices are located in
countries in Europe, North America, Latin America, the
Caribbean, Africa, Australia, the Pacific region and Asia.
The word 'Ombudsman' is of Swedish origin, and
means 'representative'. Many other names are used to
represent the Ombudsman office in the different
countries that have adopted the office. For example,
Defensor del Pueblo is the title of the Ombudsman
office in a number of Spanish-speaking countries (such
as Spain, Argentina, Peru and Colombia). Parliamen-
tary Commissioner for Administration (Sri Lanka,
United Kingdom), Mddiateur de la Republique (e.g.
France, Gabon, Mauritania, Senegal), Difensore Civico
(Italy), Citizen's Aide (Iowa), are the titles of some
other Ombudsman offices around the world. Also, in a
number of countries, the protection of human rights is
one of the major purposes of the Ombudsman office,
and this is often reflected in the name of the office.
The roots of the modern Ombudsman can be traced
back to the Justitieombudsman (Ombudsman for
Justice) of Sweden which was established in 1809.2
The office did not spread to other countries until the
twentieth century, when it was adopted in other
Scandinavian countries, in Finland (1919), Denmark

(1955) and Norway (1962). The popularity of the
Ombudsman office increased from the early 1960s, as
various Commonwealth and other, mainly European,
countries established the office: for example, New
Zealand (1962), United Kingdom (1967), most Cana-
dian provinces (starting in 1967), Tanzania (1968),
Israel (1971), Puerto Rico (1977), Australia (1977 at the
federal level, 1972-1979 at the state level), France
(1973), Portugal (1975), Austria (1977), Spain (1981)
and The Netherlands (1981). Furthermore, in 1995 the
European Union created a European Ombudsman
under the Maastricht Treaty.
The philosophical core of the Ombudsman can be
traced in government itself, as it is not an end in itself.
It derives its raison d'dtre from its task of serving the
interests of its citizens and the institutions of their
society, and it derives its legitimacy from the way in
which it does so.3
2. Prospects of Ombudsman concept
In general, an Ombudsman deals with claims and
complaints from the citizens regarding decisions,
actions or omissions of the public administration.
Therefore, the role of the Ombudsman is to protect the
citizens against violation of rights, abuse of powers,
error, negligence, delays, unfair decisions and malad-
ministration. The main goal consists of improving the
public administration and making the government's
actions more human, open and transparent. The office
of Ombudsman may be foreseen in the country's
constitution and supported by the legislation, or
created by an act of the legislature and can be
characterized as an instrument between politics and
To protect the citizens' rights, the Ombudsman
generally holds different functions, such as:
1. to investigate whether the public administration is
being performed contrary to law or unfairly;

I  See R. Gregory, 'The Ombudsman Observed', in The International Ombudsman Yearbook, vol. I (Kluwer Law International, 1997), p. 78.
2   The Swedish parent organization was established as a prosecution office, in order to strengthen the legislative power's control over Sweden's relatively independent
public servants and their compliance with legislation.
See M. Oosting, 'Protecting the integrity and independence of the Ombudsman Institution: the Global Perspective' in The International Ombudsman Yearbook,
vol. 5 (Kluwer Law International, 2001), p. 15.

INTERTAX, Volume 35, Issue 5  C Kluwer Law international 2007

The Taxpayer's Rights and the Role of the Tax
Ombudsman: an Analysis from a Spanish and Comparative
Law Perspective
Fernando Serrano, Tax Ombudsman of the Municipality of Madrid, Associate Professor of Public Finance and Tax Law, Complutense


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