CHRONICLE OF THE INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS: INTERNATIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE COOPERATION IN TAX MATTERS AND TAX GOVERNANCE University of Barcelona, Faculty of Law, January 26th and 27th 2017

On January 26th and 27th 2017, the “International Administrative Cooperation in Tax Matters and Tax Governance” International Congress was held at the University of Barcelona with the support of the Transjus Institute of Research. The subject was to analyse the main trends in international administrative tax cooperation and tax governance, including the role of the most important institutions, organizations and governments such as the OECD, EU, USA, UN, etc., and the impact on taxpayer’s rights. Furthermore, a round table conference was held in order to discuss the future of this kind of international relations, given the new political scenario resulting from Brexit and the election of President Trump.

The Congress was directed by the following researchers: Eva Andrés Aucejo, Professor at the University of Barcelona; Pasquale Pistone, Academic Director of the International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation (IBFD); and Jeffrey Owens, ex-President of the OECD (2001-2012) and Director of the WU Global Tax Policy Center of Vienna.

The Congress was organised to commemorate the first year of work of the “International Administrative Co-operation in tax matters and ADR of transnational Tax Disputes. Models for an Institutional Architecture from a European Perspective Project” (EUDISCOOP 2016-2019, IP: Eva Andrés). The following partner institutions are collaborating with the project: WU Global Tax Policy Centre (Vienna); International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation (Amsterdam); Confédération Fiscale Européenne (Brussels); Asociación Española de Asesores Fiscales and the Transjus Institute of Research, University of Barcelona.

 January 26th, 2017

The program of the conferences was scheduled as follows:

  •  Introductory Panel. Firstly, the Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Barcelona, Xavier Pons i Rafols, opened the Congress reaffirming the important role of the university in supporting research projects and expressing his gratitude for the contribution of the partners. Subsequently, Piergiorgio Valente (President of the Confédération Fiscale Européene and Professor at Link Campus University) illustrated the challenges of international tax matters, such as tax evasion and the new scenario caused by Brexit and Trump’s presidency. Finally, the Vice-Chancellor of Economy at the University of Barcelona, Oriol Escardibul, emphasised the contribution of events such as this towards academic progress and as a tool to spread knowledge.

Panel I (9:30-11:30). The Role of the Agents on Administrative Cooperation in Tax Matters (OCDE, UE, EEUU, ONU, CIAT). Moderated by Stella Raventós Calvo, expert in international tax matters, chair of the Confédération Fiscale Européenne and partner of ECIJA.

1st session: Thomas Neale. He worked with the European Commission for 20 years as Head of Unit of Direct Tax Policy & Cooperation. He currently collaborates with TAXUD. Thomas Neale focused on the role of the European Union in the framework of international administrative cooperation on tax matters. He mentioned five key points: the European Commission, the European Parliament, the OECD Convention, country-by-country reports and the recent EU legal changes in this field. He asked for more transparency in taxation in the European context and more fluent relationships with the OECD.

2nd session: Paul Van der Smitte. Strategic advisor to the Central Liaison Office,
Netherlands Tax and Customs Administration. Mr. Van der Smitte stressed that tax collection is far from being automatic and its instruments are not binding like those of the automatic exchange of information. The importance of a common strategy was underlined since there are huge differences between countries, which generate uncertainty and revenue losses. To face this, the so-called payment thinking was defended.

3rd session: Philip Baker: Senior Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London and Visiting Professor at the Oxford University. His speech focused on the role and responsibilities of the agents in the protection of taxpayers’ rights in the automatic exchange of information system. Especially regarding cases of information leaks. To deal with such cases, a right for compensation and  criminal liability must be considered.

4th session: Amparo Grau Ruiz: Professor of Tax Law at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Her speech discussed the role of the United Nations in international administrative cooperation and governance on tax matters. On the one hand, she highlighted the role of taxes in economic social development and the need for broadening the goals of international tax policies to include sustainability, social responsibility and environmental protection. On the other hand, she specified the role, strengths and weaknesses of the UN but insisted on its importance and capacity of improvement with the existence of instruments like the ECOSOC.

5th session: Eva Andrés Aucejo: Professor of Tax Law at the University of Barcelona. Professor Andrés defended the goal of an international tax code that encodes the duty of cooperation between tax authorities worldwide from a wide perspective of Tax Governance. She also made a proposal regarding the creation of an International Body to resolve cross-border tax disputes. She also analyzed the role of the agents within the international framework, which include international institutions (OECD, EU, UN, CIAT….) as well as some countries (particularly the US with FATCA). Finally, she proposed the possibility of an instrument multilaterally arbitrated, which could turn into a multilateral agreement opened to signature by States.

Panel II (11:30-13:30). International Administrative Cooperation and Tax Governance: Concepts, Principles, Sources and Costs. The section was moderated by Professor Andres Sanchez Pedroche (ex Rector of Universidad a Distancia de Madrid). It focused on the point that cooperation between different States will not be totally effective, nor efficient, until homogeneity is established between different tax systems.

1st session: Rita de la Feria: Professor of Tax Law at the University of Leeds. Rita de la Feria introduced the topic of Tax Cooperation in VAT by making a clarifying distinction between substantial jurisdiction and compliance. De la Feria has a critical point of view with regard to the amendment proposal suggested by the Commission because she believes that the proposal yields on pressures from Member States trying not to harmonize VAT categories. Moreover, she called for more efficiency in the fight against fraud.

2nd session: Alessandro Turina: Researcher of the Bocconi University of Milan and member of the IBFD. Professor Turina analysed one of the main problems of exchanging international tax information, namely the costs of the process and the different types of costs, making differences between ordinary costs and extraordinary costs.

3rd session: Peter Hongler: Professor at the University of Zurich and postdoctoral researcher at IBFD. He made his presentation on an eventual global fiscal constitution proposal. His proposal includes a legislative, executive and judiciary body and a regulation that clarifies which area is competent for each matter

4th session: Carlos María López Espadafor: Professor of Tax Law at the University of Jaén. He started his speech wondering whether the general principle of cooperation is actually a principle, due to the fact that in general it has been forgotten by international tax law. He expressed that international general law could not be understood to be extinct because the OECD agreement models would exist notwithstanding DIG, whose role consists of reporting to them and appears as an interim channel on issues not yet regulated.

Panel III (15:00-17:00). Concerns and Limitations: The Taxpayers’ Rights. Moderated by Irma Mosquera, former professor at “The Hague University of Applied Sciences” and member of IBFD.

1st session: Pasquale Pistone. Academic Chairman of IBFD. He holds a Jean Monnet ad personam Chair in European Tax Law and Policy at WU Vienna University of Economics and Business (Austria) and is Associate Professor of Tax Law at the University of Salerno (Italy). He called for a better protection of taxpayers’ rights, especially in the EU context where they have been scantily guaranteed. In contrast with internal protection in the different States, international legislation suffers from important deficiencies in this regard. In this regard, he analysed the cross-border exchange of information and the agreements for solving disputes, defending the incorporation of the taxpayer in friendly procedures.

2nd session: Philip Baker. Professor Baker focused on data protection and its relation with taxpayers’ rights. He emphasized on the taxpayer’s right to being notified at the beginning of an automatic exchange of information procedure, which is frequently a forgotten guarantee.

3rd session: Pietro Mastellone: Professor at the Univesità deli Studio di Firenze. He was particularly critical about the OECD’s exchange of information regulation (Article 26 of the Convention), due to the fact that it does not specifically detail the taxpayers’ rights. Consequently, he made numerous proposals to improve them. He has studied also the reach of the above-mentioned rights in three categories: notification, consultation and participation of the taxpayer.

4th session: Irma Mosquera: Senior Research Associate and Technical Editor of IBFD’s Global Tax Treaty Commentaries (GTTC). She highlighted the difficulties that the current model represents for developing countries. They should make a greater effort in order to implement the exchange of information. Some consideration is therefore required for the less favoured States and international regulation must be adapted to their needs.

5th session: Luis Viñuales Sebastián. Partner of Uría Menéndez and head of the Tax Practice Area in Barcelona. He contributed with a more practical vision acquired through his professional experience, focusing on the counsel of regulatory entities in money laundering and terrorism financial areas.

 CLOSURE (Elena de las Moreras. Agencia Tributaria de España & Eva Andrés Aucejo) & Homage Act (tribute in memory of Isabel Espejo Poyato, by Prof. Rozas Valdés, J.)

 Round Table conference: 27th of January of 2017

On the second day, an international round table conference was held on the issue of the new trends and challenges for International Tax Cooperation under the new political scenario: United States (President Trump) & United Kingdom (Brexit). The members of the EUDISCOOP Project 2016/2019, together with other authors, participated.

Professors Pistone, De la Feria and Andrés gave initial lectures. Following these initial lectures, researchers of the EUDISCOOP project discussed the topics at an open table. Among the many ideas reviewed, the audience heard about the shifting of protectionism and bilateralism, the reduction of tax sovereignty, the tax havens, the lack of taxation of high-tech corporations or the problems for the legitimacy of International cooperation in tax matters for developing countries.

10.30-12:00. Round table of the Members of the EUDISCOOP Project 2016/2019:

1st session: Pietro Mastellone. Università degli Studi di Firenze ; 2nd session: Alex Ortega Ibañez (University of Barcelona); 3rd session: Peter Hongler (University of Zurich/IBFD); 4th session: Irma Mosquera (IBFD); 5th session: Amparo Grau Ruiz. Professor of Tax Law. Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Concluding remarks made by Professor Eva Andrés.

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