Who are the key regulatory authorities? How easy is it to deal with them and how long does it take to resolve standard issues?
Tax (4th edition)
The Tax Administration (locally called “Administração Geral Tributária”) is the entity responsible (acting under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance) for assessing and enforcing taxes, analyse and decide claims, requests and rulings lodged by the taxpayers in Angola. The Tax Administration is organized in centralized services and local tax offices who are responsible for dealing with day-to-day taxation related matters.
Taxpayers may resort to local tax offices to obtain clarifications on their tax obligations. Binding ruling requests are relatively common.
The main tax authorities in Brazil are: Secretary General to the Federal Revenue Service of Brasil (federal level), Treasury Secretary (state level) and the Finance Secretary of the Municipalities (local level). As the country has several different taxes and taxing authorities, the time required for ordinary activities depends on the authority involved, but we can say that for trivial matters the efficiency of those authorities has shown a progressive increase lately, as well as the transparency and availability of the tax authorities to discuss important cases.
At federal level, the tax authorities rely on one of the most efficient systems of communication and IT. For example, taxpayers have access to the entire interface of claims and administrative proceedings electronically, and also have the choice of face-to-face services that may be provided at scheduled appointments in order to obtain further assistance.
The key tax authority in Canada is the Canada Revenue Agency. It collects most federal and provincial income taxes (both personal and corporate) and commodity taxes. The Province of Quebec is in charge of collecting its own provincial taxes, through the Quebec Revenue Agency.
The Canada Revenue Agency has vast audit powers to ensure that returns are truthfully prepared. A tax auditor may at all reasonable times inspect, audit or examine the books and records of a taxpayer, and any document of the taxpayer or of any other person that relates or may relate to the information that is or should be in the books and records of the taxpayer or to any amount payable by the taxpayer. These powers amount to a seizure that is deemed acceptable under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the basis that the taxpayer has a very low expectation of privacy in relation to the kind of information contained in its books and records for tax purposes.
The period of time within which the Canada Revenue Agency is expected to carry out its tax audit and issue a reassessment is the normal reassessment, which ends 3 years (for an individual or private corporation), 4 years (for a public corporation) or 7 years (for transactions involving a non-resident) years after the issuance of the initial notice of assessment.
A taxpayer has 90 days from the date of mailing of a notice of assessment to file a notice of objection. The objection must be in writing and must set out the reasons for the objection and the relevant facts.
Large corporations must reasonably describe each issue to be decided, specify in respect of each issue the relief sought expressed as the amount of a change in a balance, and provide facts and reasons relied on by the corporation in respect of each issue, otherwise it may result in the rejection of the notice of objection.
The Canada Revenue Agency shall, with all due dispatch, reconsider the assessment and vacate, confirm or vary the assessment or reassess upon receipt of the objection. The taxpayer must be notified in writing. In practical terms, it may take several months or years.
The objection process can be bypassed. If 90 days have elapsed after service of the notice of objection, the taxpayer can appeal directly to the Tax Court of Canada.
In regard to national taxes, the key authority is the National Tax and Customs Office (Dirección de Impuestos y Aduanas Nacionales).
In regard to sub-national taxes, the key authorities are usually the local secretaries of the treasury.
In general terms, it is not difficult to deal with national and sub-national tax authorities, and the time to resolve standard issues depends on the type of issue. Additionally, there are several proceedings that may be undertaken and concluded online.
The Tax Department within the Ministry of Finance was formed in 2014 by combining the Inland Revenue Department, which administers direct taxation, and the VAT Service known as Direct and in-direct tax.
As with many government departments in Cyprus, routine procedures, such as final agreement of tax returns and issuing of assessments, can take time. However, the department responds efficiently and constructively to inquiries. Advance tax rulings are available and taxpayers may request an expedited ruling, guaranteeing a response within 21 working days provided all the necessary information is supplied, on payment of the prescribed fee (currently EUR2,000).
The key regulatory authorities in Germany are the German Federal Ministry of Finance (Bundesministerium der Finanzen), the German Federal Central Tax Office (Bundeszentralamt für Steuern) and the Ministries of Finance of the 16 Federal States with their regional and local tax offices.
The German Federal Ministry of Finance is the main tax authority in terms of preparing draft tax bills and issuing (internal) guidelines for the interpretation of tax provisions and rules. It negotiates the German double taxation treaties and has wide ranging competences in international tax law matters.
The German Federal Central Tax Office is the main tax authority dealing with international tax law matters under the control of the German Federal Ministry of Finance. For example, the refund of withholding tax on dividend payments or royalties by foreign entities are usually processed through the German Federal Central Tax Office.
The Ministries of Finance of the German Federal States are the supervising authorities for the regional and local tax offices. The regional tax offices control and support the local tax offices in terms of general management and in certain tax law matters. The local tax offices are the main reference point for the day-to-day tax matters of the taxpayers like re-viewing tax returns, issuing tax assessments and collecting taxes. Taxpayers may also apply for a binding tax ruling with respect to the tax consequences of a planned structure or transaction.
The time needed to resolve an issue with the local tax office depends on the scope and the complexity of the issue at hand. Regularly, standard issues can be directly resolved with the competent local tax office in a cooperative way. Many local tax offices have shown to follow a hands-on approach. However, more complex issues may require more extensive negotiations involving the regional tax offices and even the German Federal Ministry of Finance. Such negotiations may last several months.
The key regulatory authorities are the Commissioner for Income Tax, who manages the Income Tax Office and is responsible for the administration and collection of tax in Gibraltar. The Minister for Finance is ultimately responsible for matters handled by the Income Tax Office.
Generally, the length of time it will take to resolve a matter will largely depend on the nature of the matter that is being considered. The Income Tax Office is on the whole, very easy to deal with and are readily accessible and able to help on any queries.
The tax regulatory authority in Greece is the Independent Authority for Public Revenue (IAPR) which is responsible for the determination, assessment and collection of taxes, customs revenues and certain other public revenues.
Part of the IAPR are the Local Tax Offices or more centralized authorities such as the Audit Center for Taxpayers of Great Wealth and the Audit Center for Large Enterprises, which are competent for dealing with the tax matters of those taxpayers who are assigned to each such authority, ranging from standard administrative tasks such as tax registrations to tax audits and additional assessments.
Standard issues which require the physical presence of a taxpayer at a Local Tax Office level and cannot be dealt with electronically may sometimes be delayed due to lack of sufficient resources or a formalistic approach. More complex issues can be addressed conceptually at the various Directories which come under the IAPR depending on the type of each matter.
In India, CBDT is the apex body for administering the income tax law in India which assigns the cases on the basis of jurisdiction. Under CBDT, there are various tax authorities in the hierarchical order. A taxpayer is assessed to tax by the jurisdictional tax officer who is at the lowest level of hierarchy.
The time taken in resolving the issues depends on its complexity and the stakes involved. For e.g, if the jurisdictional officer undertakes a scrutiny assessment of the taxpayer then generally it takes around 2-3 years to resolve the issue at jurisdictional officer level. Needless to mention, if the issue is disputed and an appeal is filed by the taxpayer then the issue would take long to finally get resolved (see our responses in Query 4).
However, if it is related to standard issues such as issuance of refund it may be resolved relatively faster. Further, the Government of India has also introduced an online platform wherein taxpayers can lodge their request / issue / grievance being standard or administrative in nature which is then taken up by the relevant authority. It is worthwhile to note that officers have been instructed to resolve the request / issue / grievance lodged on this online platform to be resolved on priority basis and in our practical experience, time taken generally for turnaround is 30 days.
In case of genuine difficulty/ambiguity etc, taxpayers can write to CBDT seeking clarifications, etc. Time to time, CBDT does issue circulars/clarification on important subject of taxation where they clarify position of the Government of India. Circulars issued by CBDT are binding on tax authorities but not on taxpayers.
The Office of the Revenue Commissioners was established by Government Order in 1923 with responsibility for collecting taxes and duties and implementing customs controls. The Order provided for a Board of Commissioners comprising three Commissioners, one of whom is appointed Chairman. Irish Revenue’s structure is designed around its customer base. Irish Revenue Regions are responsible for customers within their geographical area, except for those large corporates and high wealth individuals dealt with by the Large Cases Division. There are also Divisions with responsibility for policy, legislation and interpretation functions. In total, Irish Revenue comprises of 16 Divisions each of which is headed by an Assistant Secretary.
Standard queries are normally dealt with through an online portal. Depending on the nature of the query, response times can vary from 2 days to 6 weeks or even longer in complex matters. Complex matters may be dealt with face to face with the relevant technical division in Irish Revenue. Large taxpayers may be invited to join the Irish Revenue’s Co-operative Compliance Framework (“CCF”). Taxpayers within the CCF have direct access to an Irish Revenue official and can expect matters to be dealt with more quickly. The CCF is entirely voluntary. However, taxpayers who do not participate in the CCF will not have a dedicated case manager and instead will be required to route queries or submissions to the Irish Revenue Commissioners through the general customer service team. This can result in increased delays with regard to queries being addressed or answered.
The ITA is the main regulatory authority with respect to taxes in Israel, consisting of two main units, income tax and VAT. The NII is the state institution responsible for the regulation and collection of social security payments in Israel.
Resolution of matters with the ITA generally depends on the complexity of the issues at stake, but can range from a few weeks to over a year, not including legal appeal procedures.
The competent tax authorities are the following:
- Revenue Agency (Agenzia delle Entrate): the agency has jurisdiction on the administration (including collection) of all direct and indirect taxes (such as corporate and personal income taxes; regional tax on productive activities and registration tax and VAT respectively).
- Customs and Monopolies Agency (Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli): the agency provides customs services and administers customs and excises duties. The agency is also the regulatory body competent for gaming activities.
- Government Property Agency (Agenzia del Demanio): the agency is tasked with the administration of real estate properties owned by the State.
- Financial Police (Guardia di Finanza) has special powers to ensure tax compliance and may carry out tax audits.
Several procedures grant taxpayers the possibility to obtain clearance from the tax authorities before completing a transaction or entering into an arrangement. The main procedures are the following:
- General advance rulings. A ruling may be asked to the tax authorities in order to obtain (i) advance clearance on the interpretation or application of tax law in a speciﬁc case (interpretative and characterisation rulings); (ii) conﬁrmation on whether, based on a certain set of evidences, certain regimes (such as CFC or sham companies legislation) shall be applied to a certain case; (iii) advance clearance on the application of the GAAR to a speciﬁc case; (iv) disapplication of a speciﬁc anti-abuse regime that would be otherwise applicable.
General advance rulings provides for an eﬀective instrument to obtain advance clariﬁcation on the Italian tax ramiﬁcations associated with a speciﬁc situation. Indeed, the tax authorities must reply to the ruling application within 90 days (in the case of interpretative and characterisation rulings) or 120 days (in all other cases). A ruling is binding on the tax authorities, but only in respect of the requesting taxpayer. If no reply is given within 90 or 120 days, it is assumed that the tax authorities agree with the interpretation of the requesting taxpayer.
- International tax ruling. Multinational companies can request a ruling from a speciﬁc unit of the tax authorities on matters relevant to cross-border transactions (such as transfer pricing legislation or attribution of proﬁts to permanent establishments). The international tax ruling is binding on both parties for ﬁve tax years. The Italian tax authorities send a copy of the ruling to the competent authorities in the relevant states of the taxpayers involved in the ruling for transparency purposes.
- Ruling for new investments. Taxpayers who wish to make new investments in Italy for a value exceeding EUR30 million, which have a positive impact on employment, can use this special ruling procedure. Under this procedure, Italian and foreign investors can obtain advance rulings on the following matters: Applicable tax regime; Transfer pricing; Absence of abuse; Other material tax issues of the proposed investment based on the investment business plan. The tax authorities must reply within 120 days. A reply is binding on the tax authorities, but only in respect of the requesting taxpayer. If no reply is given within 120 days, it is assumed that the tax authorities agree with the interpretation of the requesting taxpayer.
The key regulatory authorities for federal taxes are the tax offices led by the Ministry of Finance.
The Ministry of Finance also prepares draft tax bills for Federal tax laws, issues guidelines for the interpretation of tax provisions, rules of Federal tax laws, negotiates the Austrian double taxation agreements and has wide ranging competences in international tax law matters. Informal rulings on tax questions on a rather generic level (so-called “Express-Answering-Service”) may also be obtained from the Austrian Ministry of Finance.
The tax offices are the main reference point for the day-to-day tax matters of taxpayers. Some of the tax offices are specialized for certain tasks like the collection of stamp duties and transfer taxes or refund of withholding taxes to non-residents under a double taxation convention.
Taxpayers may also apply for binding advance tax rulings regarding transfer prices, restructurings, group taxation, international tax law and tax abuse. As per 1 January 2020 taxpayers can also obtain advance tax rulings on VAT issues. In other areas informal rulings based on good faith may be obtained.
The time needed to resolve an issue with the local tax office or the Ministry depends on the scope, the complexity of the issue and the availability.
The National Tax Agency (NTA) of Japan is responsible for the enforcement of tax laws in Japan and consists of the NTA, 12 regional tax bureaus and 524 local tax offices. The regional tax bureaus have general jurisdiction over companies whose capital amount is over one million Japanese yen, and the local tax offices have jurisdiction over other companies.
Taxpayers are able to ask regional tax bureaus or local tax offices inquiries on various tax issues and may receive nonbinding advice. In general, if taxpayers provide written inquiries and admit the disclosure of their name and the content of the inquiries, they can receive formal advice from the tax authorities.
Regional tax bureaus and local tax offices conduct tax audits against taxpayers around every two or three years for large companies, and around every five years for middle and small-size companies. The topics of the tax audits on companies involve various kinds of taxation, such as corporate tax, consumption tax, international taxation, withholding tax, stamp duty, etc.
Luxembourg has three key regulatory authorities being in charge of taxation:
- the direct tax administration (Administration des contributions directes) ;
- the indirect tax administration (Administration de l'enregistrement, des domaines et de la TVA)
- the Customs and Excise Administration (Administration des douanes et accises).
The direct tax administration maintains 8 tax offices dealing with the taxation of companies and being responsible for controlling and fixing the applicable tax, fixing tax advances, issuing tax residence certificates, etc. The direct tax administration is in general easy to approach and meetings with the tax inspector in charge can be requested.
In 2015, Luxembourg provided a legislative framework to its tax ruling procedure. Since then, advanced tax rulings and advances pricing agreements can be filed with the Luxembourg direct tax administration. Each request is then processed by the so called ruling committee consisting of between 4 and 6 tax civil servants. The ruling committee may contact the tax payer directly, in case it requests additional information or clarification. The committee provides a final binding answer within a timeframe of generally 2 to 3 months.
The key regulatory authority in Malaysia is the Inland Revenue Board (“IRB”). The IRB is a body corporate established pursuant to the Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia Act 1995. Its functions include, inter alia, acting as agent of the government and to provide services in administering, assessing, collecting and enforcing payment of income tax, petroleum income tax, real property gains tax, estate duty, stamp duties and advising the government on matters relating to taxation.
Taxpayers’ experiences with the IRB are quite subjective and may vary depending on the complexity of issues, quantum of taxes in dispute as well as financial key performance indicators imposed on IRB collection officers.
Ordinarily tax audits and tax investigations may take up to 6 to 18 months to be resolved.
Most tax related matters are dealt with the Tax Administration Service. In recent years, stringent criterions relating even to ´standard´ issues have been adopted, making it hard for taxpayers to comply with the authorities’ interpretation of the applicable tax laws. In this sense, procedures such as tax refunds (particularly concerning value added tax), or the annulment of tax liabilities determined by the authorities often require strenuous efforts and, considering the several stages of proceedings available both for authorities and taxpayers, such procedures could take several months.
In addition to the federal Tax Administration Service, other local taxes such as property taxes, payroll taxes or taxes on the acquisition of real estate ought to be dealt with local tax administrations or treasuries. Furthermore, other administrative authorities such as the Mexican Social Security Institute are also entitled to initiate audit procedures concerning employer contributions.
Legislation and regulations in the area of taxation are drafted by the Dutch Ministry of Finance.
Dutch tax law is generally executed by the Dutch tax authorities, which are a part of the Dutch Ministry of Finance.
The key regulatory authority is the National Superintendence of Customs and Tax Administration (Superintendencia Nacional de Aduanas y de Administración Tributaria), also known as SUNAT, per its Spanish acronym. This authority is responsible for the collection of taxes corresponding to the Central Government and for the enforcement of all related tax obligations. In such capacity, it continuously issues regulations or rulings intended to clarify aspects from the tax law, as well as to allow the fulfillment by taxpayers of their tax obligations.
SUNAT is responsible for the design and setting up of the platforms which taxpayers must employ to fulfill their tax obligations. Also, it enacts the regulations necessary for the operation of the mechanisms that have been set to assure the payment of taxes, such as the VAT withholdings and advance payments, the enforced collection of debts, etc.
Dealing with the Tax Authority can be a cumbersome matter when it comes to the number of formal obligations that need be fulfilled by taxpayers. Pursuant to the World Bank, the time required by taxpayers to fulfil their tax obligations was, in 2018, equal to 260 hours.
On the other hand, while the tax regulations set the timeframe for the carrying out of an audit in one year (extendible to one more), this term is frequently extended and the time required to attend claims from the taxpayers at the administrative stage extends far beyond the established terms of 9 months at the first instance and 12 months in the second instance at the Tax Court. In practice, the time required to get a response on a claim at the administrative stage can go from 2 to 9 years, depending on the complexity of the case.
Finally, the time required to get a tax refund can vary between 2 months in case of income tax refunds to individuals, to 6 months in case of VAT refunds, provided, however, that the application submitted by the taxpayer is not rejected for in the latter case the time required to get the refund can extend for some additional months or years, depending on the complexity of the case.
For national taxes which are imposed by the national government under the Tax Code and other related laws, the main regulatory authority is the Bureau of Internal Revenue. For tariff and customs duties imposed under the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines, the regulatory authority is the Bureau of Customs. For local or municipal taxes under the Local Government Code, it is the concerned local government unit which regulates it.
Standard tax issues are resolved in a relatively short period. However, those that deal with complex or policy issues, and those that involve substantial amounts take years, and are usually elevated to the courts for resolution.
The National Revenue Administration (NRA) is a merger of tax administration, fiscal control and customs service. At the governmental level NRA consists of:
a. Minister of Finance – responsible for issuing general advance tax rulings; issues guidelines for the interpretation of tax provisions,
b. The Head of National Revenue Administration whose competences relates to tax avoidance, the conclusion of advance pricing agreements,
c. Director of the National Revenue Information System – responsible for issuing individual tax rulings.
Under NRA, direct taxpayers' service takes place at local tax offices which are the key reference point for the day-to-day tax matters of taxpayers. In turn, the customs and tax offices are specialized for serious matters than tax audits conducted by tax offices and acts more like a ‘tax policy’.
The director of the tax administration chamber is the appeal body in cases which belong in the first instance to the head of the tax office or the head of the customs and tax office. The exceptions are tax decisions issued by the head of the customs and tax office as a result of irregularities in compliance with tax law, as part of customs and tax control. In this case, the appeal body is the same head of the customs and tax office.
This means that the Polish tax administration consists of two instances, i.e. decision made by the authority of the first instance may be challenged to the second instance authority.
In general, the Polish tax authorities demonstrate a very pro-tax approach which means that resolving taxpayer’s issue in a cooperative way may be difficult for the taxpayer. However, timing and the possibility to solve tax issues with the local tax authorities depends on two important factors: (i) the scope and the complexity of the issue at hand and (ii) which tax office taxpayer is dealing with.
A drawback of the Polish tax system is also the excessive length of administrative and court proceedings. A taxpayer whose tax office wrongly accused of irregularities in paying taxes fights in front of offices and courts on average about 5 years.
On the other hand, the NRA sets up the National Revenue Information System (NRIS) which provides uniform, individual interpretations of tax law and tax and customs information by telephone. This solution allows taxpayers to address a specific tax query via telephone to the consultant of the NRIS and obtain a direct answer. Moreover, taxpayers may also apply for a binding tax ruling on whether any planned or actual taxpayer actions, arrangements or transactions comply with the Polish tax law.
The key regulatory authority which handles tax issues is Autoridade Tributária e Aduaneira (Tax Authority). As a rule, any tax issue may be dealt before a tax office. Standard and simple tax issues are usually solved immediately or, if not, within weeks. It is important to note that very simple issues may be solved by phone or by internet through the Tax Authority website in a feature called e-balcao, which allow taxpayers to address any issue.
SARS is the key regulatory authority for tax matters in South Africa. In particular, the Commissioner of SARS is the figurehead responsible for implementing the various tax laws in South Africa, as well as for monitoring and enforcing compliance with the tax laws.
SARS is generally responsive to engagements and adheres to the time periods specified in the tax laws, which are generally in 30 business day intervals.
Whilst each dispute must be considered on its particular facts and circumstances, standard issues can be resolved in three to twelve months.
Spain is a business-friendly jurisdiction with highly skilled and sophisticated Tax Authorities.
The national tax system is administrated by the headed by the Ministry of treasury and managed by the Tax Agency (Agencia Estatal de Administración Tributaria - AEAT).
The AEAT is generally well approachable.
Taxpayers may obtain certainty in advance mainly by two means:
A) Asking for an interpretation of the law, by means of an advance tax ruling (“consulta”): rulings are requested from the General Directorate of Taxes (a body belonging to the Ministry of Treasury but different from the AEAT), when obtained rulings are binding for the AEAT in connection to the taxpayer asking for it (other taxpayers might also benefit from ruling’s criteria, in terms of avoiding penalties).
The length of a consulta may vary depending on the matter however on average it could take between six months to one year getting an answer to a ruling.
B) Asking for a valuation criteria from the AEAT by means of an advance pricing agreements (APA) usually on transfer pricing issues. AEAT is favorable to the use of APA since it could provide certainty for both parties, out of the context of a tax audit.
Although legally the length of an APA is not supposed to be longer than 6 months, its negotiation always takes longer. The APA could not cover longer than 4 years though it can have retroactive effect to years within the statute of limitation.
The documentation provided to the Tax Agency in the course of an APA cannot be used in a tax audit.
The AEAT is generally well approachable and can provide taxpayers advance certainty on the tax treatment of certain transactions.
The regulatory authorities for direct taxes (income tax, capital tax and wealth tax) are the relevant cantonal tax authorities and the Federal Tax Administration ("FTA"). The FTA is also competent for other federal taxes, such as value-added tax ("VAT"), withholding tax and stamp duties. Moreover, the Federal Customs Administration is in charge of customs duties.
Taxpayers may request a tax ruling to clarify the tax consequences of a planned structure or transaction. While Swiss law does not expressly refer to tax rulings, this possibility stems from the practice of the tax authorities.
The length of time needed to resolve tax issues varies greatly and depends on the complexity of the issues at stake. There is no standard amount of time that a tax dispute will take to resolve. While the vast majority of tax disputes are settled prior to litigation, those that go to litigation can sometimes take years to resolve.
The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) is in charge of administering the Federal income tax laws and auditing tax returns. The IRS also has a program for granting advanced private letter rulings on certain issues, subject to payment of a user fee. State and local taxes are subject to separate audit and administration at the state or local level.
Large corporate taxpayers are under audit by the IRS on a continuous basis. Certain corporations also have been admitted into Compliance Assurance Program (“CAP”), which allows for real-time audit of issues prior to the corporation’s filing of its tax returns. CAP has been popular with corporate taxpayers in minimizing disputes with the IRS and new applications to the program were recently reopened.
The difficulty of dealing with the IRS depends on the nature of the issue and taxpayer’s relationship with the IRS. The IRS’ Large Business & International (LB&I) division has designated certain issues as “campaigns” requiring coordinated national treatment within the IRS. Issues involved in campaigns may be expected to involve more controversy between taxpayers and the IRS.
The Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) is the tax regulatory body in Zambia. The period it takes to resolve standard issues varies from experience disputes are resolved within a reasonably short time, this however entirely depends on the complexity of the matter.
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (“HMRC” or “the Revenue”) is the regulatory authority for tax matters. A 2018/19 survey shows a large drive on the part of HMRC to provide online support through new services such as the “Making Tax Digital for Business” which was launched in April 2019. This has had a mostly positive response with 80.4% of customers stating they were satisfied or very satisfied with the digital services. With 93.5% of all returns filed in 2018-2019 being filed online, this is likely to continue. Other methods of communication with HMRC were less positive HMRC missing its targets to answer a call within 5 minutes and turn around 80% of post within 15 days.
The resolution of disputes with HMRC, particularly if leading to litigation, tends to be a relatively lengthy process. In 2017, HMRC published a commentary on its litigation and settlement strategy (LSS), the aim behind which was to provide a mechanism for HMRC to settle disputes in a non-confrontational and collaborative way. However, in practice, HMRC often approach disputes in a litigious and uncompromising manner, particularly in cases where the revenue exposure is high. This means that a large number of tax disputes still proceed all the way to courts and tribunals.
The key regulatory authority that is competent for tax matters is the Federal Ministry of Finance, which is hierarchically structured and has authority over the central tax administration and the local tax administrations. The same structure can be found in the three Regions.
The local tax administrations are in general quite available for dealing with standard issues. More complex issues can be dealt with by a higher tax administration, such as the central tax administration. In a pre-tax return filing phase, certainty over the interpretation of tax laws can be obtained by means of a ruling delivered by the advance ruling commission, which falls under the authority of the Federal Ministry of Finance. Obtaining such ruling usually takes two to three months. Tax disputes that are still in the administrative phase (ie that have not yet been brought to court) can be submitted to a tax mediation service.
The time needed for solving standard issues will strongly vary depending on the competent service and the complexity of the issue.
Panama tax authority is known as the Internal Revenue Office which is a directorate under the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
The Internal Revenue Office is divided into several departments, including: taxpayers’ assistance, legal advisory, international taxation, transfer pricing, collections, account balances, audit, invoicing, exemptions and refunds. However, all acts must be signed and issued by its Director.
The caseload of the Tax Authority is heavy and the turnaround time is generally slow. Among the factors that contribute to the slow pace of the tax authority are its centralized organization, a lack of sufficient personnel to meet the demand and the lack of an efficient method to organize and manage the documents. Standard issues could takes as minimum (6) months to be resolve.