Traditionally, enforcement of tax compliance is based on deterrence. Taxpayers are compliant because of the fear of detection and punishment. However, findings in the field of behavioral sciences show that also mutual trust between the taxpayer and the tax authorities increases tax compliance. Accordingly, over the last decade the OECD and the EU have promoted a shift from the deterrence-based approach to a tax compliance model based on cooperation and trust. Cooperative tax compliance programs are designed to establish such a relationship. They are intended to deliver various benefits for tax authorities and companies: enhanced relationship, improved tax risk assessment, reduction of administrative costs, improved confidence in the tax system. Since cooperative compliance induces transparency and voluntary compliance, it is de facto also an instrument against aggressive tax planning structures.
A growing number of countries have introduced cooperative compliance programs. In some countries these programs have been evaluated, mainly through surveys.
Belgium has not yet introduced cooperative compliance. In 2019 a pilot drafted by the Belgian tax authorities, will be introduced. The project will study this pilot. The research hypothesis is that a broad range of key indicators contribute to the success (or failure) of such program. The research aims to develop a framework revealing success indicators and legislative requirements to install a legal breeding ground for future initiatives.
The combination of various research methods will contribute to a rich picture of key success indicators. First, a literature review will inventory the theoretical substructure of cooperative compliance as well as insights of empirical studies in which cooperative compliance has been examined and tested. Second, a process and impact evaluation will be carried out. In the process evaluation, also important indicators for success, such as working relationship and mutual trust, will be accounted for to understand possible effects found in the impact evaluation. The impact evaluation will follow a quasi-experimental design, involving the companies that took part in the project as well as a control group consisting of similar companies that will be selected using paired matching. Third, the survey will examine the reasons to whether or not participate in the pilot on cooperative compliance. Finally, based upon the results a framework will be developed. This framework will be twofold, revealing success indicators and legislative requirements to install a legal breeding ground for future initiatives.
The research plan is innovative not only because it combines various research methods. It is also unique since the Belgian tax authorities have agreed to facilitate the research and to give access to information. Such access is seldom achieved.
The research will be supervised by Prof. dr. Van de Vijver (tax aspects) and a second promotor, Prof. dr. Vanderhallen (methodological aspects). Prof. dr. Van de Vijver and prof. dr. Vanderhallen already collaborated regarding the topic of tax compliance and are both affiliated to Antwerp Tax Academy (interfaculty institute for tax science).