May 5, 2020

Dutch Ministry of Finance and CEF: Sharing Knowledge on Tax Audits and Compliance Risk Management

The Ministry of Finance of the Netherlands is a longstanding partner of the Center of Excellence in Finance (CEF) in supporting public finance reforms in South East European countries. Most of them are countries that the Netherlands is partnering with in its constituencies at the IMF, World Bank and the EBRD. The Dutch Ministry of Finance, represented by the Netherlands Tax and Customs Administration (NTCA), is proud to cooperate with the CEF in its goal to assist with the modernization of tax administrations in the region.

NTCA is a service provider, supervisor, law enforcer and fraud fighter all rolled into one. We work actively on compliance. We are flexible when possible and strict when necessary. The majority of our work is done digitally. Our work is based on trust with mass processing, but attention to individuals. The CEF is a knowledge hub for various countries in South East Europe. 

We, Steven van der Vrande and Dennis ten Hove, together with our colleague Thomas Bruun from the Danish Tax Administration, recently delivered two training courses on tax audits. During these three-day courses, the participants learned about how the Tax Administrations in Denmark and the Netherlands are structured. We discussed the task of a tax administration and the way in which it can implement its enforcement strategy. 

A tax administration has limited resources and one cannot conduct an audit with all taxpayers. Many more different forms of supervision are possible. Examples of different supervisory resources are observation, company visits or horizontal monitoring. These supervisory resources are often cheaper than conducting an audit and also improving tax compliance. With limited resources, the course participants had to choose an appropriate supervisory strategy. 

Another important topic we discussed was performing a good preplanning. This is essential for a tax auditor. Knowledge of a specific industry in which a company operates, while also being aware of the risks, ensures that an audit can be carried out quickly and effectively. Understanding the business is important in this respect.

We found that in most of the participating countries mainly correctness checks are carried out. During the courses, we also focused on performing completeness checks. We discussed various audit skills, such as movement of goods, capital comparison and cash analysis. In addition, we used the outcome of assignments in a role play to train the soft skills of the participants. 

Looking back, we had a very well organized workshop thanks to Kaja Jurtela and Maja Tomšič Pavlič from the CEF. It seems like the participants are starting to think out of the box – just like we encourage them to do. Looking forward, we see opportunities to further strengthen knowledge sharing with theory, practice and organizational advice.