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Tax & Technology cube

Technology plays an increasingly important role in practice of fiscal law.  We are not only referring to the question of how all kinds of technological developments are taxed, but also in the use of technology in the field of compliance and the digitization of tax law. There are a number of developments that make this possible, namely the reduction in data storage costs (Kryder's Law), the availability of ever-faster processors (Moore's Law) and breakthroughs in the field of artificial intelligence (fourth spring).

The tax and technology field focuses on the role of technology in the tax domain.

To get a picture of this field of expertise, a general understanding of the technology that plays, or will play, a role in fiscal legal practice is required. Technology categories include programming languages, ERP systems, block chain, artificial intelligence, the field of data science and the role of (big) data.

It is customary to divide the big data process into three phases. These phases are as follows:

  1. Collecting data
  2. Analyzing data
  3. Use of data

The aforementioned technologies can play a more or lesser role in each of these phases. However, technological aspects are not only relevant in big data process. Various legal aspects of the field of the legal protection of taxpayers also play a role including privacy, confidentiality and regulations regarding reporting obligations. Rules are relevant in both national and European law.

The tax & technology field therefore covers three dimensions. Namely:

  1. The aforementioned phases in the big data process.
  2. A number of relevant technologies, such as artificial intelligence.
  3. Formal tax law at national and EU level that governs the relationship between taxpayers and tax authorities

These three dimensions graphically represented in the following stylized Tax & Technology Cube:

The front side of the cube shows the various legal areas that can play a role in the different phases of the big data process. These may be general principles of law that set limits to legal actions of tax authorities, such as the principle of proportionality and the principle oflegal certainty. But also European law (for example the General Data Protection Regulation) and national law (for example the AWR in the Netherlands).

The top aspect of the cube lists tax relevant technologies. Examples such as artificial intelligence, programming languages and ERP systems indicated. This list will become more extensive as new digital technologies are applied and use in the field of tax.

Different sub-areas arise at the intersection of the dimensions that lend themselves to further research. The Tax& Technology Cube exemplifies the intersection of tax and digital technology, i.e. how the area of national law that can be involved in analyzing data by artificial intelligence. Questions then arise in these sub-areas such as, ‘What limits does national law impose on the use of artificial intelligence in the analysis of data by tax authorities?’

The various dimensions of the Tax & Technology Cube will be explored in the educational program at the VU Amsterdam, Tilburg University and Maastricht University during the coming academic year. In addition, the course is designed in such a way that you will experience the practical application of relevant technologies in relation to tax data and law. Not only are current technologies applied, but we also introduce new and emerging technologies, which have the potential to be disruptive in the field of tax. Students will be challenged - among other things by case material and research - to think critically about tax & technology.

Albert Bomer

Professor (VU & TiU)