2nd International Conference on Taxpayer Rights takes place in Vienna, Austria

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson convened the 2nd International Conference on Taxpayer Rights in Vienna, Austria on March 13 and 14. Hosted by the Institute for Austrian and International Tax Law at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, the conference brought together the world’s foremost experts in tax law and tax administration to discuss the most pressing issues facing tax administrators on a global scale. Over 160 government officials, scholars, and practitioners from more than 40 countries attended the two-day event, which included sponsors Tax Analysts, the American Bar Association’s Section of Taxation, the American College of Tax Counsel, American Tax Policy Institute, and the International Fiscal Association (U.S. Branch). Panels discussed the many ways global taxpayer rights function as the foundation for effective tax administration.

Day One – Monday, March 13: A focus on protecting taxpayer rights from a global perspective

Tax agencies around the world are facing reduced budgets even as tax administration becomes more complex and tax agencies play an increasing role in delivering non-tax benefits. The first day of the conference featured several panels that explored recent developments in this area, including the reduction of person-to-person service in favor of digital or centralized taxpayer services; the increased reliance on third parties (such as preparers, representatives, and software providers) to navigate the tax system; and the impact of these changes on tax compliance and on vulnerable taxpayer populations (e.g., the elderly and low income), particularly in self-assessment systems. Other topics discussed included frameworks for taxpayer rights, including a review of the sources of taxpayer rights and the legal implications associated with international taxation.

Fireside Chat With Inspector Generals, Ombuds and Advocates

Following a panel exploring the right to quality service in an era of reduced agency budgets, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson sat down with internal inspector generals, ombuds officers, and other advocates for a candid discussion on enhancing the independence of taxpayer advocates seeking to promote taxpayer rights.

Dr. Jeffrey Owens, Professor at WU (Vienna University of Economics and Business), moderated this panel, which included Swedish Tax Ombuds officer Anders Bengtsson; Diana Bernal, Procuradora de la Defensa del Contribuyente; South African Tax Ombudsman Hanyana Eric Mkhawane; Australian Inspector-General of Taxation Ali Noroozi; Sherra Profit, Canadian Taxpayers’ Advocate; and Ms. Olson.

The discussion addressed the “creative tension” between the tax agency and the ombuds officials tasked with ensuring that taxpayer rights are protected and that tax administrations abide by basic notions of due process and procedural justice. Ms. Olson discussed the importance of TAS’s independence and impartiality, outlined the specifics of TAS’s Case Advocacy and Systemic Advocacy program goals, and engaged in open dialogue with the other panel members regarding the importance of maintaining independence as ombuds officials. All panel members agreed that there is likely to be a growing need for vigorous taxpayer advocacy in light of the growing role of globalization and that further dialogue on the tax administrative duties of ombuds officials, and access to agency information, will remain a high priority. View the entire Fireside chat: https://player.vimeo.com/video/208335804.

Day Two – Tuesday, March 14: A focus on transformation and building trust between the taxpayer and the tax agency

With a room-filled audience, day two of the 2nd International Conference on Taxpayer Rights featured panels discussing: penalties and general anti-avoidance rules; the role of intergovernmental actors in protecting taxpayer rights; and building trust between the taxpayer and the tax agency. The manner in which a tax agency enforces tax laws impacts every taxpayer’s ability and willingness to comply with those laws. Day two’s focus explored the approaches, safeguards that could potentially enhance taxpayers’ trust in their tax agency, and also included more technical discussions on the perceptions of procedural justice, administrative appeals, mediation, and access to pre-assessment judicial review.

Building on the discussion of trust, a who’s who lineup of educators and tax officials from around the world –including faculty and administrators from the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law, Linköping University, the University of Nairobi Law School, and the Kenya Revenue Authority – showcased the effects cultural transformation may have on voluntary tax compliance. From the tax agency perspective, a variety of questions were brought to bear on the conversation, such as “How does an agency transform itself from employing a ’hunter’ mentality to adopting a more educational, collaborative approach?”.

Highlights from the two-day conference, including several Facebook Live interviews, can be found on TAS’s social media sites.  Videos of all panel discussions will be posted to the conference website www.TaxpayerRightsConference.com soon.

Save the Date!

Continue to check the media page of the conference website as more details become available for the 3rd International Conference on Taxpayer Rights, which will be held in The Netherlands on May 3-4, 2018.

For conference marketing materials, visit the Conference Media highlights page.

Taxpayer Rights Conference in the News