Tax Scholars and Officials Gather for the 3rd International Conference on Taxpayer Rights in The Netherlands
National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson convened the 3rd International Conference on Taxpayer Rights in Amsterdam, the Netherlands on May 3 and 4. Hosted by the International Bureau on Fiscal Documentation (IBFD), the conference connected government officials, scholars, and practitioners from around the world to explore how taxpayer rights globally serve as the foundation for effective tax administration. Over 165 participants from more than 40 countries attended the two-day conference, sponsored by Tax Analysts, Caplin and Drysdale, the American Bar Association’s Section of Taxation, the International Fiscal Association (U.S. Branch), the American Tax Policy Institute, the American College of Tax Counsel, and the International Association of Tax Judges.
Day One – Thursday, May 3
The conference took place in the inspiring Saint Olof’s chapel, the oldest chapel in Amsterdam dating back to the 15th century. National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina Olson, opened the conference by setting out the current environment for taxpayer rights, including the role of taxpayer rights in a world of big data and intelligence. To frame the subsequent discussions, the first panel presented different disciplinary perspectives for good governance, including applied psychology and ethnography. Panelists on the first day also explained mechanisms for preventing disputes and mitigating tax administration challenges through early warning and intervention systems.
Ali Noroozi, Inspector-General for Taxation at the Australian Government spoke about the use of data to identify taxpayers at risk of financial distress and prevent insolvency. Alessandro Baracco, Adjunct Professor of Business Economy at the University of Padua in Italy, discussed a new Italian reform that would identify symptoms, notify companies, and provide strict vigilance of tax payment delays. Panelists also discussed prepopulated returns, cooperative compliance programs, and more effective appeals conferences to prevent disputes. Lynne Oats, Professor at the University of Exeter Business School in the United Kingdom, focused on the importance of interpersonal trust in cooperative compliance programs, which may prevent disputes, but is also complex, fragile, and dependent on circumstances.
A highlight of the first day was a presentation on the current developments in taxpayer rights. Katerina Perrou, a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the IBFD, discussed case law where the European Court of Justice found that a mutual assistance directive did not create an obligation on the requesting state or requested state to notify the taxpayer and allow the taxpayer to present their point of view at the time the information was requested. Finally, the first day wrapped up with a fascinating discussion of data protection and confidentiality rights in cross-border disputes, including the protections provided by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.
Day Two – Friday, May 4
The second day began with an overview of the IBFD Observatory on the Protection of Taxpayer Rights, which has created a working database cataloging the current state of taxpayer rights around the world in order to raise awareness and show the linkage between human rights and taxation. The Observatory created a supervisory council to monitor the reporting and announced it recently named Nina Olson, National Taxpayer Advocate, to serve on the council. Day two built on the first day’s focus on information sharing with a panel examining the burden of proof in tax disputes and the treatment of information reported through information exchange agreements. The morning ended with a panel on penalty theory and administration. Jacco Wielhouwer, Professor at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands, presented research finding that distrust increases social and psychological distance and there seems to be a U-shaped association between audits and compliance. Eric Lopresti, Attorney Advisor at the Taxpayer Advocate Service, spoke about the problem of disproportionality in penalties and the taxpayer’s right to a fair and just tax system.
The afternoon of the second day compared appeal rights in Canada, Spain, Mexico, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa. This panel demonstrated the wide variety in rights available to taxpayers in different countries, including access to mediation, administrative courts, and judicial courts before and after assessment, as well as before and after paying the tax. The conference closed with a special talk from Juliane Kokott, Advocate General of the European Union Court of Justice, discussing the Court’s contributions to taxpayer rights and the protections under European Union law.
Highlights from the two-day conference, including several panel questions posed on Twitter and Facebook, can be found on TAS’s social media sites. Videos of all panel discussions will be posted soon to the conference website - www.TaxpayerRightsConference.com.
Save the Date!
Continue to check the conference media page as more details become available for the 4th International Conference on Taxpayer Rights, which will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 23-24, 2019.