Tax authorities never have doubts

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It has been 18 months since the introduction of the clause on settling doubts to the benefit of tax payers. Its aim was to change the approach of tax authorities towards companies and citizens. Unfortunately, it turned out that the clause has not been applied.

In autumn 2015, the clause on settling doubts to the benefit of tax payers (“in dubio pro tributario” principle) kindled our hearts and minds for months. It was even used politically as one of the three questions in the national referendum proposed by the President Bronisław Komorowski. The clause was supposed to be a magic wand changing a tax payer-supplicant to a tax payercustomer. Owing to it, most of the problems connected with the inflation of ambiguous law were to disappear. Most of disputes with tax authorities were supposed to be eliminated and thus the administrative judiciary was to be disburdened.

Finally at the and of 2015, the clause was entered into the Tax Ordinance, and in theory, on January 1st, 2016 it came into force and has been a binding and hard law since then. What is the reality? Do officers of tax authorities in fact use the principle according to which they settle doubts concerning interpretations of tax regulations in favour of a tax payer?

Unfortunately not. As the analysis conducted by the Grant Thornton experts show, during the first six months of functioning of the clause, there existed no single case in which a tax office would settle a doubt to the benefit of a tax payer. It simply appears that officers… do not have doubts.

Whether the clause has been applied or not can be verified through an analysis of the individual interpretations published on the website of the Minister of Finance. Our own calculations show that in the first six months of the term of the clause, the Ministry of Finance issued the total of 17,524 individual interpretations of tax law. We counted that in 192 cases a tax payer requested the use of the clause proving inconsistency of the judicature in the case concerning the request and therefore presented unremovable doubts.