Frequently asked questions

 

What is "Tax Inspectors Without Borders (TIWB)"?

The TIWB Initiative facilitates the transfer of tax audit knowledge and skills to developing country tax administrations using a practical, "learning by doing" approach. Experienced tax auditors work on current tax audits and international tax issues alongside local tax officials in assistance-requesting countries under a TIWB Programme whereby they share their expertise and skills.

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How does it work?

Host Administrations request audit assistance by initially completing a TIWB Assistance Request Form and then a TIWB Programme Details Questionnaire which then allows the TIWB Secretariat to match an appropriate Expert from its database of currently serving tax officials or recently retired tax officials. The TIWB Secretariat operates a clearing house which matches the requests of Host Administration countries with available Experts from around the world.

TIWB Programmes are flexible and tailored to a country's specific needs. They can include pre-audit risk assessment and case selection, investigatory techniques, audit cases involving transfer pricing issues, anti-avoidance rules, or sector-specific issues relating, for example, to natural resources, e-commerce, financial services or telecommunications.

It is important to note that foreign Experts are not to be deployed to substitute for local audit staff or to carry out audit work where no local audit personnel are involved. TIWB is about sharing expertise by working side-by-side, building skills through practical, case-based co-operation.

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What is new and why is it different?

There is growing evidence that technical assistance, and other Official Development Assistance (ODA), financed support for tax work, has been money well spent. The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank Group and bilateral donors have been active in this field for decades. However, developing countries have indicated that there is a gap in the provision of practical audit expertise, particularly concerning the fast-moving and complex area of international taxation, including transfer pricing. There is no international initiative dedicated to this kind of hands-on approach to capacity building. TIWB is intended to fill this gap.

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What are the benefits to Host Administration countries in terms of revenues?

Practical audit assistance to develop tax audit skills and effective audit processes is an area which can improve the quality and consistency of frontline tax administration. For Host Administrations, improvements in tax audit knowledge and skills can result in increased revenue. Evidence of revenue increases gathered in TIWB's Pilot Phase involving external Experts includes:

  • Transfer pricing audits in Colombia (anonymised audit files) created a significant increase in profit tax revenue (from USD 3.3 million in 2011 to USD 33.2 million in 2014)
  • In Kenya, every dollar spent working with the tax authorities on cracking down on tax avoidance produced over USD 1,000 in increased revenues
  • Senegal reported increased revenue as a result of their TIWB Programme: adjustments have resulted in an additional USD 12,3 million of tax income (CFA Franc 8 billion).

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What are the other benefits to Host Administration countries?

Broader benefits include:

  • Improved voluntary compliance. Support provided by foreign Experts working with Host Administrations sends an important signal to all taxpayers concerning transparency and fairness in tax administration;
  • More certain and transparent investment climate. Increased expertise, greater certainty and consistency for business, improving the investment climate;
  • It enhances state-society relations, where taxation is one of the founding elements of that relationship, by fostering engagement with (and confidence in) the taxation process;
  • Fostering international dialogue on tax matters between tax administrations in developed and developing countries.

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What are the benefits of TIWB to Partner Administrations?

In an era of rapidly accelerating international tax co-operation, tax administrations are engaging in more active partnerships with one another. Initiatives such as TIWB that promote a common understanding of shared problems serve everybody's interests. At an individual level, TIWB provides tax officials with a unique development opportunity, to share their knowledge in a different environment.

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Why the partnership between OECD and UNDP?

OECD and UNDP have joined forces to extend the global reach of the project and scale-up the number of deployments. The OECD's technical competence in tax matters and a network of tax Experts is complemented by UNDP's global network of "on the ground" expertise in developing countries around the world.

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Who is involved in TIWB Programmes and what are their roles?

The Host Administrations of assistance requesting countries are the lead partners in TIWB Programmes, having clearly identified their needs and the scope of work.

Partner Administrations with capacity to share their expertise can deploy their tax officials and encourage recently retired audit experts to make themselves available to a TIWB Programme.

Governments in assistance requesting countries, through their Ministries of Finance and Development Agencies, should encourage TIWB Assistance Requests. These Host Administrations may also directly and/or indirectly provide funding to deploy Experts under TIWB Programmes, particularly by making funding available to the TIWB Fund from which Experts may be compensated.

International and regional organisations currently working in the tax and development field can promote the TIWB type of practical assistance and stimulate the exchange of Expert know-how.

Business groups may share their specific industry knowledge to complement the transfer of know-how by tax audit Experts. Civil society can promote the TIWB Initiative and share lessons.

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Where are the tax audit Experts from?

Currently serving officials are drawn from any tax administration capable of offering tax officials with the necessary skills and experience. Recently retired experienced tax audit officials who have experience from national tax administrations are another valuable source of Experts for TIWB Programmes.

TIWB encourages "South-South" co-operation as countries that have received Expert assistance further disseminate those skills to neighbouring countries. This has already been done by Kenya in other African countries and is being explored by more and more developing countries.

Recently retired tax officials may apply for admission to the TIWB Expert database by filling out the TIWB Tax Audit Expert "Expression of Interest" on the TIWB website. Recently retired tax officials often participate in TIWB Programmes on a voluntary basis, with their costs of participating (e.g. travel and daily expenses) covered by the Host Administration or by a third-party sponsor such as a donor agency.

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What will be the legal position of the Experts working within the Host Administration?

The TIWB Experts, both retired as well as currently serving tax officials, in a TIWB Programme will work with the Host Administration under a TIWB Programme Terms of Reference agreement which covers all the legal and practical safeguards and provisions. A Host Administration Starter Kit for establishing TIWB Programme Terms of Reference agreements, addressing potential issues such as confidentiality and conflicts of interest, can be found on this website. As the TIWB Experts are deployed as staff of the Host Administration, they will be led and managed by that Host Administration which sets the objectives for the Experts. The TIWB Expert integrates as much as possible into existing Host Administration teams to foster open dialogue and skills transfer.

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What about taxpayer confidentiality?

The TIWB Experts are directly involved in the daily audit activities of the Host Administration, which in most cases require them to have access to confidential tax information relating to individual taxpayers. This position raises issues of confidentiality and conflict of interest which have to be laid down in the TIWB Programme Terms of Reference agreement. Information on how this should be managed between both parties involved in the agreement can be found here.

Options for dealing with confidentiality issues include, for example, removing taxpayer-specific identifying information from the case under examination, or through confidentiality arrangements between the Host Administration and the TIWB Expert. Conflicts of interest will be identified and managed wherever possible prior to, during and after each TIWB Programme.

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What about personal liability and safety risks of the Expert?

TIWB Programmes may involve professional liability and liability for the workplace health and safety of the Expert when working in the Host Administration country. The Host Administration, Experts and Partner Administrations will ensure that issues of liability are considered and addressed adequately before commencing a TIWB Programme. It is equally important to ensure that protections are in place for the workplace health and safety of the Expert such as secured housing, travel arrangements and adequate access to office facilities if and when required.

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What is the content of TIWB Programmes?

TIWB Programmes are flexible and can be tailored to the specific needs of a Host Administration.  In principle, they may involve all types of taxation, such as corporate income tax (profit tax), value-added tax (sales tax) and personal income tax. However, developing countries' main request for audit assistance tends to be in the field of corporate income/profit taxes and more specifically the international tax aspects of cross border transactions, including financing arrangements and licensing contracts. TIWB Programmes can also include pre-audit risk assessment and case selection, investigatory techniques, audit cases involving transfer pricing issues, anti-avoidance rules, or sector-specific issues, relating, for example, to natural resources, e-commerce, financial services or telecommunications.

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How long does a TIWB Programme typically run for?

TIWB Programmes are primarily short-term since they are generally related to an actual audit. However, the timeline for any particular TIWB Programme requires flexibility, depending on demand and availability of Experts. Different modes of assistance can be considered for longer-term arrangements.

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