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Obituary: Robin Williamson MBE, CTA (Fellow), MA (Oxon)

Author: Tax Faculty

Published: 31 Oct 2022

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Robin Williamson

Looking back at the life of Robin Williamson, 22 February 1955-4 September 2022, who worked for the LITRG and the OTS, among others.

We were deeply saddened to hear that Robin Williamson, a long-time colleague and friend of the Tax Faculty, had passed away. Robin’s wife, Jane Moore, worked for the Tax Faculty as (among other things) editor of TAXline until 2019. They met as fellow members of the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) and were able to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary shortly before Robin’s death.

Jane says: “Robin had a talent for making lifelong friends, not least among his colleagues, and I have been touched by the very many tributes to Robin and messages of support that I have received from the tax profession.

“Many have said that Robin was ‘a gentleman’, always polite, kind and supportive; that he had a passion for tax justice and was effective in his work, but at the same time self-deprecating; and that he was a good friend and good company, with a dry sense of humour and a fund of anecdotes.”

Many of our regular readers may not know what an interesting and intellectually stimulating man Robin was, so we asked Jane to share some of his background with TAXline readers.

Robin was born in Edinburgh. His father, Ken Williamson, was a noted ornithologist. His mother, Esther, was from the Faroe Islands – his parents met when Ken was posted there in the Second World War. Throughout his life, Robin was proud of his Scottish and Faroese heritage.

The family moved south to Tring, Hertfordshire, and Robin went to Berkhamsted School and then to Worcester College, Oxford, to read Classics. After Oxford he qualified as a solicitor and worked in general practice, before moving to tax publishers CCH (now Croner-i). At CCH he worked closely with the late Philip Hardman to launch the Red and Green legislation books, of which he was senior technical editor until 2002.

In 1999, Robin volunteered for the newly-formed LITRG, becoming its technical director in 2003. In that role he directed the group’s work on all aspects of personal tax and tax credits affecting individuals on low incomes. He was also involved in setting up the charity Tax Help for Older People.

LITRG had many successes in those years, for example: establishing protections for digitally excluded taxpayers (the Bishop tribunal case); achieving better safeguards to protect those in tax debt; and achieving reforms to benefit disabled people and carers. He was very proud of establishing an excellent team to carry on the work at LITRG, many of whom have paid tribute to Robin and the help he gave them in their careers.

Robin retired from LITRG in 2018, but he did not retire from tax. He spent a year as a senior policy adviser at the Office of Tax Simplification and continued to write for professional publications. His book Taxpayer Safeguards: Rights and Protections for Individuals (Claritax) was published in 2020 and ran to two editions. For two years he was the UK country reporter to the IBFD Observatory on the Protection of Taxpayers’ Rights.

In June 2015, Robin was awarded an MBE for his work on behalf of low-income taxpayers. In May 2020, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Tolley’s Taxation Awards.

But there was much more in Robin’s life than tax. A talented amateur viola player, he was a member of the Sevenoaks Symphony Orchestra, as well as other local orchestras and chamber music groups. His interests and knowledge covered classics, languages and literature, history and theology. He also enjoyed less cerebral pleasures such as cooking, fine wine and Scotch whisky.

Robin was diagnosed with renal failure in his late 20s and received a kidney transplant in 1995, which served him well for 27 years. He had many health problems, but always made light of them and never let them hold him back.

Many of us in the Tax Faculty remember Robin as a great friend, always ready to help out, especially when the impact on those with low incomes was being discussed. The phrase, “What does Robin think?” was used frequently during our team calls.

The world of tax has lost a friend.