The world has lost a great champion for tax justice and a good friend that will be dearly missed. On Sunday, Rebecca Wilkins (former Citizens for Tax Justice legal counsel), passed away after a four-year battle with cancer.
From my first day at Citizens for Tax Justice, I learned that Rebecca was the person to go to when confronted with a really complicated question about an obscure provision of the tax code. Rebecca would not only know the answer right off the top of her head, but was happy to take the extra time to break down the issue into simple understandable terms.
As time went on, I began seeking out Rebecca more and more, not just because of her depth of knowledge, but also because she was a genuinely enjoyable person to work with. Even during the toughest times, Rebecca was the first to make a joke and the last person in the office to let anything get her down.
During the 5 years I had the opportunity to work with her, I was impressed with her depth of knowledge and happy demeanor, and also her unyielding passion for tax justice. There are numerous examples of Rebecca’s fierceness; the one that always sticks out was the time she testified along with a stacked panel of banking industry representatives during a hearing of the House Financial Services subcommittee. She stood up as the lone voice for a rule requiring American banks to report interest payments made to foreign account holders. Her fellow panelists tried everything they could to spin and distract from the unjust reality of their banks’ role in facilitating illicit transactions like tax evasion. Rebecca did not allow them to get away with it and made it clear to anyone watching that the rule was both morally right and an absolutely necessity.
Rebecca’s tenacity, intellect and pleasantness made her a real force for change in the tax policy world. Her work brought to light a whole host of injustices in the tax code. This is especially true of her work to elucidate the workings of the world of tax havens, which have proven uniquely powerful and have helped create real ongoing positive change. Rebecca will be sorely missed, but her work will continue to be an indispensable part of everything that we do in the fight for tax justice going forward.