Information and assistance in the Tax Administrations. The future is in the apps

As we said in a previous comment in this same blog,[1] the strategy of modern Tax Administrations (TAs) is aimed at increasing the levels of voluntary compliance. It demands the application of two lines of action, simultaneous and complementary, which are the facilitation to compliant taxpayers and the struggle against fraud. Stated in simpler terms: service and control.

This may be seen as two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, by facilitating compliance and increasing the number of compliant taxpayers there will be less noncompliant ones to be audited in the struggle against fraud. Likewise, by struggling against fraud we will ensure that there will be ever more compliant taxpayers to assist and facilitate their voluntary compliance.

We understand that currently, both lines of action are equally relevant and should be addressed toward the same objective of increasing voluntary compliance and achieving social acceptance of the tax system as well as of the Tax Administration (TA) itself. All of the foregoing, by taking advantage of the technological opportunities which the world currently presents in the so-called fourth Industrial Revolution.

In this respect, we deem it convenient to specify that the information function includes all actions undertaken by the TA, which are aimed at clarifying the taxpayers’ doubts regarding the tax regulations and their compliance. Following clarification of the doubt, it is the taxpayer himself who complies with his formal and material obligations. It is thus important to ensure quality of the information as regards its contents and form.

Currently there are different ways of providing information; namely: databases with questions and answers, interpretative criteria, corporate blogs, etc. Such information may be either individual, addressed to specific persons, or collective, intended for the general public using mass communication media, telephone, and Internet.

On its part, the assistance function of the TAs is basically aimed at helping the taxpayers to comply with their obligations. That is, the administration fulfills part of the taxpayer’s obligation; for example, by filling the return.

This has been going through different stages, until currently arriving at sending the draft return to the taxpayers so that they may confirm the information. There has likewise been significant progress in the communication of tax data maintained by the TA.

The current trend with respect to information and assistance in the modern TAs is to establish the virtual office, whereby the taxpayer may carry out all procedures and actions via Internet, without having to physically visit the tax office for such purpose.

All of the foregoing is based on the concept of Electronic Administration, which implies the use of TICS in the Public Administrations, together with organizational changes and new aptitudes, with a view to improving public services and democratic processes, as well as reinforcing the support to public policies.[2]

What we would like to highlight by means of this comment is the current and continuously increasing importance of applications (apps) in this area.

It should not be forgotten that, at present, the number of mobile devices at the global level is 7.9 billion, thereby exceeding the world’s population.

On the other hand, the consumption habits of the population have been adapting to these devices, thus increasing the use of the applications (apps). We spend 54% of our time in the digital world using apps[3].

Without going any further, when traveling a person used to take with him a mobile phone, a radio, a camera, a videorecorder and a gps. Currently, all of this is available in a single electronic device: the intelligent mobile phone.

The mobile, on being an instrument receiving valuable amounts of information and providing many tools so that we may be in contact one with another, has also been responsible for changes in the habits of individuals and professionals, by improving the productivity at work, making us more accessible and becoming the vital instrument that supports our long working days[4].

For all of the above reasons, we believe that the TAs should strongly invest in technology and within it, in designing specific applications (apps) for each taxpayer segment.

In this respect, different Tax Administrations already have apps for providing taxpayer information and assistance services.

Thus, in AFIP of Argentina, different apps[5] have been developed, such as “My AFIP”, which allows simple and integrated access to the main services and for complying with tax obligations anywhere. Likewise, one may file complaints if a business does not accept payments with debit card or does not provide the purchase invoice. There is another application called “Mobile Invoice Issuer” which issues electronic vouchers, administers the customer, products, services bases and templates to personalize the application based on the businessman’s needs, from smartphones or tablets, thereby offering an easy to use platform.

Finally, the “My Monotax” application was recently developed. It facilitates simple and integrated access to all services required by a monotaxpayer to fulfill his obligations, at any time and from any place. The interesting thing about this application is that it is intended for the segment of small taxpayers, who generally do not have permanent accounting counseling and thus having a specific application in their mobile will undoubtedly facilitate their tax compliance.

The IRS, of the United States also has available the IRS2Go app, whereby one may verify the status of refunds, make payments, look for free assistance services for preparing the tax return and receiving useful advice and more.

As we stated in a previous blog, we are convinced that the technology will simplify the taxes[6] and a specific evidence thereof is seen with all these applications (apps) designed by the TAs to comply with the taxpayer information and assistance function.

Among the different forms existing for providing information and assistance, thereby highlighting the importance of the virtual office, we understand that one should promote even further the development of these applications and the use of smartphones.

In particular, one would have to design apps according to taxpayer segment and taxes.

We deem it important that they should alert the taxpayers regarding the procedures and actions to be carried out, for example, by sending text messages and permanent reminders.

In sum, we are convinced that the investment in new technologies, the virtual office concept, progress toward broad and integrated information systems and specifically the development of applications (apps) is a highly profitable investment aimed at arriving at the primary objective of a modern, more effective and efficient TA.


[1]           Tax administrations and the voluntary compliance strategy – May 8, 2017

[2]           Definition of the European Commission.

[3]           Www.lavanguardia.com – The business model of the future is in the apps.

[4]          https://www.importancia.org/celular-movil.php

[5]           http://www.afip.gob.ar/celular/aplicaciones.asp

[6]           ¿Will technology simplify taxes? CIAT blog dated 6/2/2017

Disclaimer. Readers are informed that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author's employer, organization, committee or other group the author might be associated with, nor to the Executive Secretariat of CIAT. The author is also responsible for the precision and accuracy of data and sources.

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