Marnix van Rij wants to reform tax education

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June 8, 2022 † Following several scandals surrounding scientific integrity in tax education, State Secretary for Taxation, Marnix van Rij, has announced that he will look at how independence can be better secured along with education.

There has been public concern for some time about problems with the independence of tax programs at Dutch universities. This was commented on in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Academic titles are misused

At the end of last year, for example, Pieter Omtzigt stated in the House that the Dutch Association of Tax Advisers (NOB), whose members often also have a job at a university, is very one-sidedly interested in certain subjects. “Well NOB, you have never asked a question about that whole benefit case in ten years. It’s always about the corporate tax, because that’s how you make an incredible amount of money. You really don’t care about the average citizen, “Omtzigt said at the time. According to the Member of Parliament, academic titles are abused because tax specialists only draw attention to topics that benefit them under their academic title.

Henk Nijboer from the PvdA even stated that tax evasion is partly made possible because the roles of tax advisers and scientists are interconnected. “It’s a big mess,” he said. “Tax evasion, the legislation, the insufficient tax system, the interests, the professors of tax economics, who to a large extent have a position in advisory practice.”

The tax specialists’ compass does not always point north

Concerns were also expressed in the Senate about the independence of scientists in tax law. Peter Ester, senator for ChristenUnie, wondered if the tax specialists’ moral compass with a job at the university is well-adjusted. “I refer to the discussion that was recently started by two young passionate professors of tax law. They point out that the moral compass of tax experts does not always point north, as the Pandora Papers have made clear. Tax advisors are constantly looking for loopholes in tax law to help their clients obtain tax benefits through financial scams and often aggressive constructions. More than half of the tax law professors also have a side job in the business tax advisory sector. ”

Following these remarks, Peter Essers, CDA senator, tax specialist and professor at Tilburg University, became somewhat annoyed. “We often talk about part-time professors. I know that many of them work incredibly hard to help their students and do much more than would be expected of them by virtue of their appointment. ”

An entire profession is being put in the corner

The CDA member stood up for his profession and said that all too often there are light accusations. He asked if ChristenUnie is ready to take this nuance into account. “The discussion has gone a bit out of control, because all focus is on the part-time employees who have a double hat, without specifying what the problem is exactly and where it is exactly. It puts an entire professional group of part-time professors in the corner. ”

These political discussions took place before various media outlets came up with revealing stories about the intertwining of scientists with consulting practice. A professor in Amsterdam had to resign, and Nieuwsuur had also shown that various chairs at universities, including in Tilburg, were remunerated by tax advisory firms without being transparent about this.

Former tax adviser and current tax minister Marnix van Rij did not leave this criticism untouched, he wrote to Parliament in a letter outlining his political priorities. “Precisely for the future, I do not want to leave education and (vocational) education unmentioned. These are the tax economics and tax law courses where future tax experts are trained. In my opinion, these courses should not only deal with the interpretation of the law, but also the discussion of the intent behind it. ”

Training benefits from a broader perspective

The Secretary of State sees that in his old subject there are many conflicts of interest between the advisory subject and the university. “I am convinced that tax information will benefit if there is even more room for the broader social perspective and for thinkers and contradictions.”

The question of the independence of scientists also plays a role here, Van Rij wrote to the House. “They often have another employer, for example in tax practice or in the public sector. There is also sometimes external funding, where transparency is not always maximum. This provides students with useful practical knowledge, but it is often criticized that their perspective is colored as a result. ”

Although he does not mention any concrete plans, he wants to talk to the sector to restore society’s confidence in the tax system. “I think it is important to take these discussions further and work with tax practices and the education sector to increase social confidence in the tax system. Socially responsible behavior on the part of all parties is crucial in this regard. I appreciate the steps mentioned positively, but they are not the end point yet. ”

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