Welcome speech, 8th Assembly of the International Association of Tax Judges (IATJ), Supreme Administrative Court, Helsinki, October 6 and 7, 2017
President Pekka Vihervuori
Mr. President Rossiter, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have the honour and the pleasure to wish you all warmly welcome to Finland and to the Supreme Administrative Court. We are very happy to see the 8th Assembly of the International Association of Tax Judges (IATJ) coming true here, and we are also happy to be able to offer our premises for this important event, despite the somewhat disturbing renovation works outside.
In a globalizing world, it is more and more important for the practitioners of tax law to take the international aspects, impacts and experiences seriously. And this is exactly what the IATJ has been aimed to. According to its by-laws, the purpose of the association is to promote exchanges of views and experience on matters submitted to tax judges, the organization and functioning of such tax judges and the rules of law applicable to a variety of jurisdictions.
This country is presently celebrating its 100 years of full independence, and the 100th anniversary of this court will occur next year. These centennial periods are not among the longest in the world, but they are preceded by and based on the earlier stages of progress, and we Finns strongly appreciate the continuation and stability of legal order and rule of law that they reflect.
As you very well are aware of, the structures of judiciary regarding tax cases vary strongly from country to country. But one basic feature is largely common to the most, namely the recognized importance of expertise also among the judges.
In this country, tax cases, when having reached the stage of court litigation after the prior rectification request stages within the administration, are dealt with before the administrative courts of justice, that is by the seven regional administrative courts and the Supreme Administrative Court. The administrative court structure is hence a two-tier one. These courts hear taxation cases of all tax categories, apart from VAT cases, which are for the whole country exclusively in the jurisdiction of the Administrative Court of Helsinki in the first court instance.
At the supreme court level, in this very court, expertise on various tax sectors and aspects of tax law, in balance with other professional skills, is represented by several individual judges of the specialized chamber. This also makes profound and even critical internal discussion possible and is also appreciated by the various stakeholders and professional observers outside the court. In recent years, however, some ideas have been presented in public to re-organize the fundamental court structures of Finland on the apex level. Those proposals, if realized, would inevitably result in a remarkable reduction of expertise and specialization. This in turn would be detrimental to a proper decision-making and proper production of the guiding court rulings on tax law expected in economic life, and hence it would be detrimental also to real legal protection. One judge or two is not enough. However, I am convinced that such plans may never become reality.
I wish you a very fruitful and pleasant Assembly. Thank you very much for your attention.