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Tax Mediation Service given suspensive effect

 
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Tax Mediation Service given suspensive effect

Patricia Stas

Are you in conflict with the Tax Authorities? Then think about appealing to the Tax Mediation Service. This is an autonomous service that tries to reconcile differing views objectively. Thanks to a bill dated 21 June, the application for tax mediation will soon have a suspensive effect. This means you are given more time to reach a compromise with the Tax Authorities. Read more here.

 

Successful service provision

 

The Tax Mediation Service was set up around five years ago. It is an autonomous service that strives to reconcile the views of taxpayers and the federal tax administration in an independent and objective way.

 

The annual report shows that awareness of this service is growing. In 2016, 4,535 new files were submitted, which is an increase of 21% compared with 2015. In addition it appears that (admissible) mediation applications relating to income tax and VAT result in a final solution in approx. 67% of cases. In the case of collection, this percentage is as much as 72%.

 

By appealing to the Tax Mediation Service, lengthy proceedings can be avoided in certain cases. However, the disadvantage of the present scheme is that it does not have a suspensive effect; the Tax Mediation Service can be bypassed by the Tax Authorities immediately.

 

The bill adopted on 21 June 2017 “to reinforce the role of the Tax Mediation Service” aims to eliminate this disadvantage by granting applications for tax mediation a suspensive effect.

 

When can the Tax Mediation Service be called in?

 

If you have a continuing dispute with the Tax Authorities, for example regarding income tax, VAT, or collection, you can submit an application for mediation.

 

For disputes relating to income tax, an application may only be submitted during the administrative phase. This means, after submitting an objection or a request for ex officio tax relief and before the final decision of the advisor-general (formerly called the “directorial decision”) or also, before the dispute is brought directly before the court by the taxpayer.

 

The Tax Mediation Service tries to reconcile the views of the parties and prepares a non-binding mediation report that is sent to the parties. In other words, no decision is imposed; the parties decide for themselves whether they agree with the suggested compromise.

 

This mediation may be very useful in certain files, but since the application at present has no suspensive effect, the advisor-general can immediately overturn the mediation by taking a decision without waiting for the mediation report.

 

What does the bill provide?

 

The bill aims to solve this problem by giving mediation applications a suspensive effect. The suspension period commences on the date on which the application for mediation is declared admissible. In principle, it ends when the mediation report is approved by the Board of Tax Mediators.

 

The suspension period does however end in any case one month before the expiry of the tenth (or for a tax ex officio the thirteenth) month after submission of the objection. This period is based on the right of the taxpayer to go directly to the court if the Tax Authorities fail to take a decision on an objection within a period of six months (or sometimes nine months). The bill provides for an extension of this period by a maximum of four months if the taxpayer has submitted an application for mediation that is declared admissible.

 

The act is expected to come into effect on the first day of the second month after the month in which it is published in the Belgian Official Gazette.

 

Conclusion

 

Practical experience shows that the intervention of the Tax Mediation Service may be very useful in certain disputes. A new, objective look at a file can bring the parties back to the table in certain cases and set them on the path to an amicable agreement. By granting this mediation procedure a suspensive effect, it is given more clout. The Tax Authorities are then encouraged to cooperate actively, which can only be welcomed.

 

Should you have a dispute with the Tax Authorities or have questions about the operation of the Tax Mediation Service, do not hesitate to contact us.

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