Mar 3, 2022

Communication as a Critical Factor in the Work of Tax Auditors

While technology can undoubtedly make the work of officials in tax auditing easier and more efficient, it does not replace the unique set of people skills that tax auditors bring to the table. Tax auditors provide relevant information to different stakeholders and influence their behavior and attitude. For that reason, it is vital in what way the audit findings and recommendations are being communicated, as this affects the perceived impact and quality of the audit. We are happy to share Ms. Sanja Međo's reflections about her personal learnings from the online course that she attended on this topic. Ms. Međo works as a tax inspector at the Indirect Taxation Authority of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Tax administration officials cooperate with taxpayers on a daily basis, and it includes various forms of written and oral communication. While written communication is highly formal and largely defined by legal norms and principles of business correspondence, oral communication is often unpredictable, complex, and subject to combat subjective and objective factors. Tax laws and established internal rules of the organization, which define the behavior of employees, cannot fully cover and predict living matter called oral communication. In the tax auditing process, communication between auditors, on the one hand, and taxpayers, on the other, is the basis for efficient and effective work.

Practice shows that taxpayers, according to the degree of willingness to cooperate, display a wide range of behaviors. There is a significant number of conscientious taxpayers who are fulfilling their legal obligations and who are actively cooperating in the tax auditing procedure. Communication with them is efficient and effortless, regardless of whether they accept the auditor's decisions or file legal remedies. One group of taxpayers is characterized by non-compliance with tax regulations but also responsible acceptance of financial and legal consequences for their behavior, and communication with them goes without major problems. 

However, in practice, there is a group of taxpayers whose behavior ranges from complete unwillingness to cooperate to avoiding, delaying or obstructing the procedure, or who react inadequately to the established facts and the resulting financial and legal consequences for them. In such situations, the mode of communication is crucial to prevent or resolve conflict situations. The tax authority should explain to the taxpayer that the auditing procedure, in accordance with the law, must be carried out regardless of whether they cooperate or not. 

Authorized officials will inform them not only about their obligations but also about their rights arising from the procedure, and that they will have the opportunity to present evidence that could potentially lead to a different solution. This will reduce the number of second-instance administrative and lengthy court proceedings, and also avoid costs for both parties. Tax auditors should maintain professional skepticism, establish the facts, and make a decision in accordance with the law, while also taking into account the rights of taxpayers, conscientiously evaluating relevant evidence, listening to the other party, providing necessary information for the procedure, and taking an educational role. This will result in the proper resolution of the procedure, while maintaining the trust of taxpayers and the general public in the tax administration.

The skill of communication is conditioned by the social, emotional and overall intelligence of the individual, so it can be improved and developed through experience. Last year, I had the pleasure to participate in the course "Improvement of communication skills in the process of tax control", organized by the CEF. I am very satisfied with the content of the course, its organization, the lecturer and participants. It was interesting to share experiences with colleagues about the challenges we face and conclude that we all have similar problems and dilemmas in our daily work. We had a great opportunity to learn together, and I look forward to new gatherings.”