Meeting of Taxation Working Group of the Association of European Administrative Judges 13.-15.6.2019
Opening Speech by President of the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland Kari Kuusiniemi
Honourable Guests, Dear Colleagues,
on behalf of the Supreme Administrative Court I wish you warmly welcome to Finland! It is a pleasure that the taxation working group has decided to organize its meeting here at our Court.
In the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland tax law is and has always been a very important field of law. Even if the number of incoming cases has recently to some extent decreased the significance of case law concerning taxation is, in my opinion, greater than ever before. Taxation forms the very basis of national economy, the most relevant means to finance the functioning and services provided by a modern welfare state. Interpretations of tax law are crucial for enterprises in different branches, especially for those having business activities in several countries, which obviously in the present-day economic environment is a rule, not an exception. We shall also recognize the importance of the application of tax law to State finances.
Tax law is a complicated field of law. At least to me, who has a background as professor of environmental law. Tax law is constantly evolving both nationally and internationally. In order to profoundly understand tax law, one also has to possess knowledge of e.g. accounting and the logic of business activity (if there is one!). Actually, it is misleading even to talk about tax law as a homogenious field of law. Rules concerning value added tax and real estate tax do not have much in common. I am proud to say that in the Supreme Administrative Court we have the best expertise in Finland in tax law. The justices at our second chamber include e.g. four doctors of law specialized in tax law and other extremely qualified judges and referendaries having the requisite qualifications to solve hard cases and give valuable precedents to guide the application of tax law in administrative courts and the administration.
In Finland we are currently moving towards a comprehensive system of leave to appeal. This implies that the Supreme Administrative Court will in the future give a substantive judgment only in cases where it grants the applicant leave to appeal against the decision of a regional Administrative Court. However, in practice the system of leave to appeal is already now widely used. The pioneering field of law where the leave to appeal system has been adopted – already in the beginning of 1980´s – is tax law. To date, I dare to say that the published case law of our Court concerning tax law is much more extensive than in other fields of law on an average, and also societally and economically very important.
Even if taxation as a main rule rests with the competence of EU Member States, value added taxation is widely harmonized within the Union, and, hence, there is a rich case law by the Court of Justice of the European Union guiding national interpretation in this field of law. Topics such as transfer pricing have extremely important international links, too.
In general, the relevance of international cooperation, first and foremost cooperation between Courts and judges working in different EU Member States, has grown immensely. We can go straight to the point with our foreign colleagues who probably are keeping busy with similar cases, similar norms and interpreting the same case law by the EU Court of Justice. Therefore, I am very delighted that the Taxation Working Group has come together to discuss common issues of burden of proof in tax law, with a special reference to the ECJ case law.
Once again, cordially welcome to Finland! I wish you a useful meeting and nice stay in Helsinki!