Tax ombudsman is for stable and fair tax code
03 February, 2011
Tax ombudsman is for stable and fair tax code

The much trumpeted tax ombudsman’s institution, envisaged by the new tax code, at last comes to force. According to law, Prime Minister of Georgia is entitled to appoint a candidate. Oppositional political parties and economic analysts disapprove this method of appointment. They fear it can make tax ombudsman less impartial and recommend replacing Premier by parliament.
Girogi Pertaia, a former economic aide of Nika Gilauri, Prime Minister of Georgia, will be the first ever Georgian tax ombudsman introduced by new tax

code [that entered into effect starting January 1st of 2011].   Three candidates were presented on the post of tax ombudsman past week. Gilauri having consulting with Davit Bakradze, Chairperson of Parliament, announced on January 28 that Pertaia is the best candidate supported by the business community itself.
Pertaia was appointed on the position of Premier’s advisor in charge of business affairs past spring and already then was supposed to be eligible candidate for the tax ombudsman. Pertaia, a MBA graduate of Western Illinois University, was a customs expert at American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia, and was closely involved with the elaboration of customs and tax legislation.
According to the tax code, tax ombudsman is responsible for protection of  tax-payers’ rights throughout the entire territory of Georgia. He is authorized to require an explanation from tax administration on complaints and applications submitted by taxpayers. If tax ombudsman discloses a fact of violation taxpayer’s right he is mandated to give due recommendations to due body how to retrieve the violation. He can keep certain information confidential and is accountable to the Finance and Budget Committee of Parliament where he presents a yearly report. 
Prime Minister appoints ombudsman through the agreement with Chairperson of the Parliament. And rights and responsibilities of tax ombudsman will be defined by governmental regulations. Oppositionist political parties hailed government to change the rule of appointment tax ombudsman and gave authority to parliament for that. Leaders of the New Rightists political party believe that the active rule of appointment does not insure impartiality and independence of tax ombudsman.
“It’s a fact that business suffers from governmental crackdown first and foremost and has conflict with government. And this here rule that mandates Premier to appoint tax ombudsman personally in fact cannot insure his independence from government,” Davit Saganelidze, one of the leaders of the New Rightists, said on January 28, 2011.
Another fact that makes economic analysts skeptical is that tax ombudsman unlike ordinary Ombudsman of Human Rights is not selected under defined office-term and it depends on government when stop his office-term [like a minister or any other appointed official]. This fact provokes an idea that he may face a temptation to take into account governmental opinion that poses perils to the status of an “unbiased arbitrary” tax ombudsman is supposed to be.
Nevertheless economic analysts approve introduction of tax ombudsman’s institution as they believe that finance ministry actually violates taxpayers’ rights  on every step and neither the Dispute Council operating at the ministry of finances nor the court act as effective tools to protect taxpayers from governmental crackdown. On the other hand they advocate parliament rather than Premier to be responsible for appointment of tax ombudsman.
“On the other hand the fact that tax ombudsman is appointed by Primer can be a right move as it means that the Primer’s office will be involved with the problems of business as much as possible and solve problems quicker,” Levan Kalandadze, Executive Director of Association of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises of Georgia, said.”It is not an ideal model of course but let’s see how it will work.”
Pertaia meantime plans to address to elaboration of tax legislation first and foremost so as to eradicate the biggest affliction of business: the problem of double-interpretation of tax legislation leading to confusion and violation of taxpayers’ right. Once the tax code becomes simpler and understandable to everyone it will make tax administration simpler as well, Pertaia believes. 
“On the other hand, I want to make tax legislation stable at last. To this end I plan to work hard for 6 months for example [starting now on] and streamline all controversial paragraphs [that confuses business] so as it would not change for at least next two years. It will make business feel stable and protected and fairly treated,” Pertaia told Georgian Journal.

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