If you’re worried what the future holds as we draw nearer to an era of artificial intelligence – more automation, and fewer humans running the show – then you’d better worry about it a bit more. The robots are already here, and they might be processing your tax return right now.
At least, that could be the case if you live in the United Kingdom, where HM Revenue and Customs made the rather startling revelation earlier this month that it has been using artificial intelligence since 2015, and it has processed 10 million transactions already. Creepier still if this is the sort of stuff gives you the willies, HMRC’s Chief Digital & Information Officer said that the tax office uses “robots” to undertake a multitude of albeit mundane administrative tasks! Robots!
Now, I don’t think we’re talking your classic “Metal Mickey”-type automaton here, … Read More »
Government “e-tax” initiatives aren’t always the panacea they are made out to be. They are fine of course when they actually lead to reductions in the time it takes to file forms and pay taxes, and result in fewer or shorter interactions between taxpayers and tax authorities – in other words, make life easier for everyone involved. Such schemes are not very useful if digitization of the taxation process has the opposite effect, though.
But surely a government wouldn’t be so silly as to use information technology to increase the workload on taxpayers? Given the litany of botched public sector IT projects across the world, it would be foolhardy to underestimate governments’ ability to get these things wrong! And the UK Government might be about to commit another botch job if it doesn’t heed the warnings of tax practitioners and members … Read More »
Australia’s rap sheet of tax-related misdemeanors grew yet longer in the past few days. First, we had further backpeddling on the backpacker tax, followed by the news that Australia is forging ahead with a UK-style diverted profits tax, a BEPS-inspired measure that has made even the OECD a little uneasy. Then the OECD itself was on the Government’s case for repeated failures to follow through on tax reform pledges.
There was one bright spot though, and it came in the form of an announcement by the Australian Tax Office that it would issue “tax certainty” letters to taxpayers, guaranteeing them that, as far as the tax man is concerned, they are fully tax compliant and that they need not fear checks or audits. However, given the upending of the tax ruling systems in other parts of the world, namely the EU, … Read More »
There seems to be no limit on the type of information that governments are now willing to exchange with each other. First it was details about people’s bank accounts, then it was company transfer pricing information, swiftly followed by tax authority rulings in the European Union and, now, the EU wants to share information on beneficial ownership.
For the time being, bulk information exchange mechanisms remain restricted to the area of taxation. But what next I wonder? Maybe governments could keep an eye on our eating and drinking habits in their fight against obesity and excess and their associated health problems. They could then tailor their “sin” taxes to the individual accordingly, leaving the more virtuous among us unpunished. Perhaps governments could exchange photographs of vacationers tucking into a hearty supper after lazing on the beach all day. Then again, they … Read More »
The United States Internal Revenue Service is more often vilified than it is complimented. So when it does receive a rare piece of praise, it is worth pointing out. Apparently, the agency had a pretty good 2016 filing season, according to the mid-year report delivered to Congress by National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson on July 7. As you’d expect, though, there is considerable room for improvement; reportedly, more than 25 percent of telephone enquiries to the IRS still go unanswered, many taxpayers remain baffled by a nightmarish tax code, and rates of fraud and error are still unacceptably high.
However, in the IRS’s defense, it doesn’t make the rules, Congress does; nor, most likely, does it ask to do more with less. But Congress and the Administration routinely demand this, in the knowledge that the agency’s ever-expanding remit is stretching it … Read More »
Bashing big business is de rigueur these days – an appropriate use of a French phrase considering the recent early morning raid by (reportedly) around 100 investigators and five magistrates on Google’s offices in Paris. Accusations of aggravated financial fraud and money laundering abound, linked to Google’s headquarters in Ireland. That is quite a joint accusation against one the globe’s biggest businesses.
But it is no secret that France – with Germany – has long held a grudge against Ireland and its competitive business tax and streamlined regulatory environment. That grudge became most apparent when the Celtic tiger lost its teeth during the financial crash, and refused to budge on calls led by those two countries to increase its low (for EU standards) 12.5 percent corporate tax rate as a condition for a bailout.
For more information on this, and other … Read More »
It was encouraging to see German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble rebelling against European Commission proposals for public country-by-country reporting at the latest meeting of EU finance ministers, given the weight of Germany’s voice in the EU. It’s going against the grain these days to question the call for greater corporate transparency. And perhaps there’s an argument that multinational firms could benefit from being more open about their activities from a public relations point of view, in much the same way as offshore jurisdictions like Guernsey have. Yet, as Schäuble suggested, there has to be a balance between “transparency and practicality.”
As Schäuble pointed out to his counterparts in Brussels recently, publishing sensitive company information in the public domain could lead to all sorts of unintended consequences, such as “lining someone up to be pilloried publicly.”
For more information on this, … Read More »
It’s difficult to know where to begin with the Panama Papers affair. Predictably, most people have latched on to the “us and them” angle – how the rich, powerful, and well-connected get to live by a different set of rules from those who pay tax in full. The world does seem like a very unfair place sometimes. But it’s difficult also not to highlight the hypocrisy of some of the world’s leading politicians, who seem to rule by the mantra of “do what I say, not what I do.”
That being said, it might be an unpopular thing to say, but the massive irony about all this is that the vast majority of people named in the Panama Papers probably have done nothing illegal. Yet nobody has drawn attention to the crime that was committed to create this exposé in … Read More »
The European Council, with the Netherlands at the presidency helm, last month released its BEPS Roadmap for the short and medium term. It lays out plans for further work on the Interest and Royalties Directive to include further restrictions on interest deductions, and on the Anti Avoidance Directive, with key focus on tightening controlled foreign company rules across the EU. This is perhaps an uncomfortable position for the Netherlands to be in; during much of the BEPS initiative, it remained largely silent on the proposals being put forward, choosing to wait for recommendations. And while it has made a few changes to its laws to reflect certain BEPS developments, in part in line with EU requirements, the Netherlands has not done so with the sheer gusto demonstrated by, say, the UK.
For more information on this, and other topical international tax … Read More »
As the famous expression, usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, goes, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” But what about tax after death? It’s probably safe to assume that in Franklin’s world, death was a blessed relief from tax. However, as it turns out, sometimes the two are not mutually exclusive, at least in the eyes of some tax authorities. In Canada for example, death is no excuse for not filing your tax return, according to the Canada Revenue Agency. Not that you are expected to submit a return from beyond the grave. That would just be silly. No, under Canadian rules this unfortunate task falls to the legal representative of the deceased, as it no doubt does in most jurisdictions.
I suppose by the strict letter of the law, if you shuffle … Read More »