Insights | October 17, 2018

Oral hearings in tax disputes

Taxation is mostly a written procedure, and also the tax disputes are normally litigated in writing. However, the court may arrange an oral hearing to complement the written process. Provision concerning the court’s obligation to arrange an oral hearing are described in Section 37 of the Administrative Judicial Procedure Act.

The Government has given its proposal to the Parliament on the enactment of a new Act on Litigation in Administrative Issues. In section 57 of this new act, the court’s obligation to arrange an oral hearing is clarified compared to the previous rules. The new legislation will become into force early 2019 and it may be assumed, that the amount of oral hearings in tax disputes will increase.

An administrative court has to arrange an oral hearing, if it would be bring further clarification on the case. In practice, the clarification would often cover either the facts of the case or the credibility of evidence. The court may also hear experts orally, even though written expert opinions are very common in tax disputes.

As the facts are under the dispute in many transfer pricing or tax avoidance cases, an oral hearing would be the most useful in tax disputes concerning these topics. Oral hearings would also shed much needed light on many tax issues related to permanent establishments.  As the financial and business administration aspects are very important in tax matters, courts may also find it useful to hear experts in these fields personally, as this would also allow the judges to ask questions.

Roschier’s lawyers have expertise in litigating complicated tax disputes. We have also assisted our clients in various oral hearings in administrative courts. The inter-disciplinary teams with specialists from both Tax and Dispute Resolution practices ascertain that all aspects of the case and its advocacy are taken into account.

Ossi Haapaniemi, Mika Ohtonen and Merja Raunio have written an article on the necessity to arrange oral hearings in tax disputes especially in cases concerning transfer pricing and tax avoidance, published in the Finnish Bar Association’s publication Defensor Legis No. 4, 2018 (in Finnish). Please click on the link attached for a pdf copy of the article. If you would like to have a hard copy, please be in contact with any of the writers or your regular Roschier contact, and we are happy to send you one.