The performance of the tax audit in Morocco
National School of Business and Management, Ibn Tofail’s University, Kenitra
PhD student at the National School of Business and Management, Kenitra
Laboratory of Research in Management Sciences of Organizations
E-mail : email@example.com
PhD student at the the Souissi Faculty of Legal, Economic and Social Sciences in Rabat-University Mohammed V
Laboratory of Research in Management Sciences of Organizations
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
The Moroccan tax system represents the core of the economy. It is the regulator of tax revenues that constitute the engine of public finances. For firms, taxation is one of the fundamental components of their lives, which is introduced into their parameters and management tools. Indeed, in their tax strategies, companies must demonstrate fiscal citizenship; except that in the face of changes in the tax provisions imposed and the spread of the culture of fraud, tax strategies adopted by companies represent several tax risks, sometimes difficult to identify by the tax authorities.
The management of tax risks is increasingly difficult as the tax administration puts the tax audit system at the center of its concerns, given its main role in achieving tax fairness and ensuring respect for equality between citizens.
Keywords: Moroccan tax system, tax risk, tax audit.
The tax system is a set of compulsory participations taken by the State, most of the time in the form of taxes, pressing on the people, on the companies and on the properties (goods). According to Kamangu (Likasi 2000, p.21), the tax system is the science of the taxes with the laws and the procedures of taxation, the perception of taxes and the related complaints current in a country and in a given period.
In a country such as Morocco where the government expenditures are essentially financed by the tax, the tax system represents a key role. Indeed the Moroccan tax authorities sit down on a fiscal system which is based on the principle of the declaration; the majority of the taxes suppose an initiative of the declaration on behalf of the persons liable for the tax. This declarative tax regime marks the will of the country to adopt an approach based on the voluntary consent of the taxpayer who takes itself the initiative to declare its turnover, its income or its fiscal result…
Because of the declarative Moroccan fiscal system, the tax authorities always put themselves in situation of distrust towards the taxpayer; and it is in return to this system, that the administration has almost the power of control, recovery, and penalty in case of the failure to respect by the company of its accounting and administrative obligations.
Indeed, in the current fiscal device, the practice of the control and the check of accounting became one of the major concerns of the General Taxes Direction. The corollary of the declarative regime, the tax audit thus remains a tool of regulation of the fiscal system. He allows making sure that the persons liable for tax carry out suitably their obligation but also to fight against the fraud harmful to the tax fairness.
It should be noted that one of the major concerns of the General Taxes Direction is the performance of the tax audit given its key role in the tax system of tomorrow.
The performance of the tax audit becomes, nowadays, a subject which feeds several debates because of the particular interest which it represents and of the high importance which it dresses, on one hand, as a procedure of recovery of the fiscal conduct of the taxpayers, and on the other hand, as a tool of improvement of recipes.
However, it should be noted that the realization of the performance, much desired, of a tax audit, must necessarily involve transparency, the development of a culture of administration’s service and improvements in the programming of targeted files. These are the commitments that the General Taxes Direction must make if it wishes to achieve a revolution of mentalities anchored by reluctance as well as distrust.
In this article we will outline the performance of fiscal audit within the Moroccan tax administration while trying to answer the main question, what are the elements that affect the performance of a tax audit?
In order to answer this problematic, we will present in a first part the literature review, in a second part the research methodology and in a third part the presentation and interpretation of the results.
1. LITERATURE REVIEW
1.1. Tax audit.
The tax audit is the guarantor of tax citizenship. It brings together the various procedures that allow the administration to exercise its delegated power to check the accuracy and of returns in order to correct omissions, inadequacies or errors in taxation committed by taxpayers, whether committed intentionally or not.
Indeed, the tax audit has both the aspect of the “vital support of the declarative system and the testimony of the relative nature of the declaration” (J P Casimir, 1979).
The right of control as defined is attributed to the tax authorities under Article 210 of the General Taxes Code, which stipulates in its first paragraph that: “The tax authorities shall control the declarations and acts used to establish duties and taxes… »
Tax audit has a specific place in the administrative landscape, which is not only due to the content of the mission but also to the important political role played by taxation (Bouvier, 2003, p. 11) within companies. This symbolic function of taxation should not be neglected because it is in fact crucial. It places the individual in the national community and at the same time gives concrete form to the principle of equality (Djouhri, 2010, p. 25)
Indeed, the tax must be strictly controlled. However, it should be noted that the control dimension increased significantly during the 20th century as a result of the introduction of declarative taxes (Djouhri, 2010, p. 84) and successive reorganizations of the tax services, accompanied by significant investments in IT systems.
The search for the quality of tax audit is the objective stated by the administration; but the assessment of the quality of tax audit is largely based on performance statistics, even if responsibles of the General Taxes Direction try to hide this fact; “Contrary to persistent legends, agents are not assigned any quantitative objectives… The only objective… is the quality of their work… the achievement of the quality objective… is judged by the importance of the rights recalled, but also by the contentious consequences of the recalls” (Lhermet, 1986, p.47).
Moreover, the performance constraint is always reported and gives rise to a severe but objective judgment on the part of Pierre Lascoumes: “The best control is the one that produces the maximum amount of revenue with the minimum number of investigations… The purpose of the control is first and foremost one of profitability, the search for offenses is only carried out insofar as this objective is consistent with the first” (Lascoumes, 1986, p. 174)
1.2. The performance
Etymologically, the word comes from the English verb “to perform”, itself from the old French, parformer which means to accomplish. The term performance can, therefore, be defined as the balance sheet of an action.
For Bourguignon (2000, p.934), performance “applies as much to the organization as to the individual who achieves his or her objectives is effective”. According to Lorino (1997), performance is everything that helps to contribute to the achievement of strategic objectives. Bescos (1999) defined it as the overall effort to increase the company’s financial results. He added that “it is not enough to simply achieve objectives, but that these objectives must be well chosen and the strategy chosen must be relevant”.
Indeed, the notion is in fact complex, difficult to grasp in the public sector, for which the stakes are high, particularly when it comes to constructing related indicators (Beauvallet, 2006).
In any case, the performance that could be called public performance is not reduced to the search for productivity (efficiency), which is different from private management. Carassus et al. (2010), propose the following definition of public performance, with the aim of synthesizing the different approaches: “the ability of a public organization to control its human, financial and organizational resources in order to produce an adequate supply of public services, in quality and quantity, that meet the needs of its stakeholders and generate lasting effects on its territory”.
Tax performance includes the efficiency and effectiveness of tax administration operations, taxpayer services, external communication, compliance control, etc. It measures the operational capacity of the key functions of the tax administration. Like any performance, fiscal performance requires the development of indicators that attempt to determine the extent to which tax structures are efficient, equitable, efficiently administered and promote the social contract between citizens and the state.
In a research context applied to administrations, the influence of the economic approach to public performance (spending reduction and revenue optimization) is necessarily felt, favoring the trilogy relevance-effectiveness-efficiency (Demeestere, 2005, in Carassus, 2011, p. 6). The search for performance extends for the tax administration to manage the acceptability of the tax audit within the population but also to the management of the State’s human resources. Indeed, performance must be concerned both with the conduct of the behavior of tax audit actors and the search for productivity.
Nevertheless, the performance of all government services poses serious difficulties both in terms of method and consistency of objectives. Indeed, on the one hand, the definition of the services produced by administrations, and their translation into quantitative indicators, is often a delicate exercise, as the quality of services is difficult to measure. On the other hand, the objectives of administrations are often multiple and the nature of the tasks required of agents is complex. These difficulties will naturally be encountered in the tax audit activity, as measuring the performance of an audit department is a source of difficulty.
2. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The methodology we will adopt for the elaboration of this article is based on an empirical dimension. The choice of our research methodology is strongly influenced by the field on which we collected the information; the collection of information was carried out through semi-directive individual interviews with auditors and tax controllers, in addition to the documents and activity reports that are collected to complement the primary information available.
Our methodology covers:
– The setting of objectives and the framework of the survey;
– The focus of the empirical dimension;
– The data processing technique.
A. The setting of objectives and the framework of the survey
The general objective of this survey is to mobilize the data necessary to verify the hypotheses put forward in this research work. It will be specific questions of whether:
– The rigidities of the administration (in terms of procedures, scheduling of files, etc.) limit the effectiveness of the tax audit.
– Does the strategy of the agreements have a negative impact on the performance of the tax audit?
– The lack of instruments to measure the performance of tax audits carried out is at the root of the inadequacy of their evaluations.
As our study focuses on the performance of tax audits, we will orient our framework to the General Taxes Direction, which will serve as a place for us to observe and collect the opinions of a few people close to the field of tax audits.
B. The focus of the empirical dimension
The questions asked during the semi-directive interviews are designed to facilitate the collection of most of the respondents’ opinions (auditors and tax controllers) on our topic and to identify information that could enable us to confirm or refute our assumptions and propose concrete and relevant recommendations for better tax audit performance.
C. Data processing technique
The data collected at the end of the interviews with the target population will be manually analyzed. With regard to their processing, we will use numerical data to determine the percentages in order to draw the necessary conclusions. The results obtained will be analyzed and presented in order to verify the hypotheses.
3. RESULTS AND INTERPRETATIONS
As already mentioned, tax audit ensures that the tax law is respected and properly applied.
In this section, which deals with our case study carried out at the General Taxes Direction, we will present the services having an impact on the performance of the tax audit, the role and impact of the procedures adopted and agreements concluded and the factors for improvement for a more effective tax audit.
As mentioned above, semi-directive interviews were conducted as part of this study. For a precise analysis, we used a thematic analysis that classifies the responses collected, the information and documents available by theme according to the hypotheses fixed.
3.1. Role of some services and the effectiveness of procedures in improving tax audit performance
The results of our first hypothesis can be divided in two. In the first part, with regard to the role of the services precisely that of the cross-checks and that of the programming of files to control.
Based on the results of our study, all auditors interviewed support the primary role of cross-checks because if they are communicated quickly, reliably and with relevant manner, they serve to reconcile taxpayer-reported and cross-referenced figures and generate a difference to be reinstated at the time of the notification and subsequently secure a portion of the adjustments. Thus, they support the significant development of the General Taxes Direction at this point, following computerization and the various agreements concluded with the General Taxes Direction’s partners, namely banks, The National Social Security Fund… the role of the cross-referencing brigades is being strengthened and information has become more and more accessible.
However, some controllers (13%) criticize the cross-checking department (whether it is the national cross-checking brigade or even the regional and provincial brigades) for the ineffectiveness of their collaboration at the requested time.
This is explained by the auditors by the responses and confirmations from the cross-checking brigades, which sometimes do not arrive or only arrive towards the end of the audit. In this sense, the work of the cross-checking department can sometimes hinder performance and subsequently negatively influence the performance of the tax audit.
This is why the General Taxes Direction must rethink how to strengthen this service, assign more staff if necessary, provide the service with the logistics necessary to carry out the said mission and also pay great attention to the design of the new system developed by the administration, the Integrated Cross-Checking System (ICS), so that it is operationalized to meet the expectations of the auditors.
For the programming department, and at the operational level, the General Taxes Direction has undertaken actions to strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of control. This mainly concerns the automation of programming, which is now based on a computerized risk analysis system that mainly aims to measure tax risk in order to identify taxpayers whose risk is highly probable and organize them into programming sequences throughout the year.
We cannot deny the laudable and advanced effort of the General Taxes Direction, focused on the programming of audits; nevertheless, some controllers and auditors mention that sometimes they face problems, on the one hand in terms of the stakes of the selected files and on the other hand in terms of the time allowed for the audit.
In terms of stakes, 20% of auditors mention that sometimes they assist in the programming of taxpayers’ files that do not present a significant tax risk, which breaks a little down their motivations.
It is in this context that the auditors always invite the programmer managers to review their selection criteria for better performance and sufficient rotation of the files applying for the audit, to allow them a good margin of maneuver to propose files to be controlled following their confrontation and knowledge of the field; in order to schedule coherent audits for greater impact on the effectiveness of the control, or, as one auditor proposed, to create regional and provincial programming units that will be in direct contact with auditors and controllers to communicate the various files that could be scheduled for audit and sent to the central programming service for an annual program proposal.
In terms of time allowed for audit, the majority (60%) of the auditors claim that the time allowed to carry out the control is increasingly constraining, especially concerning the programming of the last sequence of the year. Indeed, the frequency of verification orders rises at the end of the year and especially for exercises threatened by the prescription, therefore the auditors are forced to verify and notify before the end of the year in order not to lose this exercise. Due to this, some tax controllers find themselves even more constrained in such situations since they have other sector tasks to manage at the end of the year.
The second part of our hypothesis concerning the procedures is put in default, because at the legislative level, the General Taxes Direction has introduced dispositions in terms of article 8 of LF n° 70-15, concerning the reduction of intervention times within the company and the notification of adjustments that have been reduced by half. The accounting audit operations may not last more than three months (instead of 6 months previously) for companies whose declared turnover, for the fiscal years under audit, is less than or equal to fifty (50) million dirhams excluding tax, and may not last more than six months (previously 12 months) for companies whose declared turnover, for the fiscal years under audit, exceeds fifty million dirhams excluding value-added tax.
Also, the General Taxes Direction has proceeded, through article 8 of L.F. n° 70-15, to remove the duality of the levels of appeals in front of the tax commissions and consequently to establish a single level of appeals in front of the commissions depending on the case . This is a positive point, from the point of view that it reduced the cost and time of recourse compared to before when there was duality of recourse, which greatly prolonged the procedures.
In general, by way of these explanations mentioned by the respondents (86%), the General Taxes Direction has made a great effort to improve, to standardize and reduce procedural delays, which is beneficial for taxpayers and also for the administration.
3.2. The effect of agreements on the performance of the tax audit
It is never fun to be audited for tax purposes. A tax audit is always poorly received by the taxpayer. Experience shows that the General Taxes Direction is increasingly tending towards the fact that attitudes often have to be based on cooperation and collaboration. In this context, the tax administration has introduced more transparency into amicable agreements that take place after a tax audit and that must be validated at the level of the entire hierarchy.
Indeed, for the majority of auditors (93%), “it is better to have a good arrangement than a bad lawsuit”, and this is also the case for the taxpayer who prefers to reach a common ground. The study conducted with controllers and auditors shows that the majority support the strategy of agreements in order to avoid litigation. In 2018, the majority of the auditors interviewed stated that an average of 80% of their files was concluded by agreements, they found that on the one hand, it is the best way to ensure that a file does not drag on in court and therefore reduce the time and cost allocated to files during the procedure. On the other hand, it is a way to encourage the taxpayer to pay and a question of how quickly revenues are collected.
Nevertheless, a proportion of the interviewed auditors (20%) mentioned that sometimes agreements are made for amounts less than what is proposed for well-founded adjustments. In other words, they sometimes find significant differences between the amounts required in the first notification and the final agreement between the company and the tax authorities. This is done with the objective of speed and assurance of revenue collection so that the administration can achieve its objectives for the year even if it is sometimes losing some amounts of legal adjustments.
It is in this sense that the auditors request a reframing of the agreements by articles and texts of law that will distinguish between legal (unquestionable) and factual (questionable) corrections and rectifications while specifying the margin or average abandonment rate not to be exceeded during the negotiation of amicable agreements so that the performance and image of the tax audit is safeguarded and not damaged.
3.3. The impact of the use of the courts
In the context of the contradictory tax audit procedure, if the corrections made are maintained and the taxpayer is not convinced of the grounds on which they are based, he may have recourse to arbitration commissions either the Local Taxation Commission (L.T.C) or the National Tax Appeal Commission (N.T.A.C.), depending on the turnover of the audited financial years, and in case that he is not satisfied with the decisions of these commissions, he may also challenge them by legal and judicial means and bring them in front of the court.
The study found that the auditors support the role of the commissions (L.T.C or N.T.A.C), which are composed of competent members and a representative of the tax administration with knowledge of the tax subject, the auditors explain that in this case of recourse to commissions, the performance of the tax audit is not affected when notifications are well founded and communicated in accordance with the tax law. And even in the event of recourse to the courts, the performance of the tax audit is not affected, because there is usually intervention and recourse to experts in the field to be able to decide.
However, the auditors (80%) confirm that, despite the efforts made, remedies take a long time to treat and handle files that are the subject of disagreement, which leaves the files dragging on for a long period of time and therefore requires a cost to the administration, which can negatively impact the performance of the tax audit.
3.4. Indicators for assessing the performance of the tax audit.
As we have said before, a tax audit is one of the major concerns of the General Taxes Direction that is why the evaluation of its performance must also be at the heart of the administration’s strategy.
The performance of tax audits is an essential factor for public authorities insofar as it allows judging the ability of the services of the General Taxes Direction to “collect taxes”. It is also because it is part of a policy aimed at strengthening tax citizenship and deterring fraud, as well as being a performance objective for our public finances.
At present, the measurement of the performance of the tax audit must be of great interest to the General Taxes Direction.
In fact, the study carried out found that some auditors (26%) use a few indicators to assess the performance of the tax audit in particular:
- The dashboard of the audited files which is used to monitor the indicators set by each auditor such as the amounts of adjustments made per tax audited, in principal and increases, the ratio of objectives initially set and the revenues collected at the end of the audit…
- Follow-up of cases and files during the proceedings.
- Monitoring the fiscal behavior of taxpayers after the audit with regard to their tax obligations and the sincerity of their declarations…
However, they propose that these indicators should be standardized, reframed and developed in such a way as to apply them and generalize them in all directions while suggesting that they should be developed and based on other ratios such as:
- The agreements, revenues, and amounts actually collected and recovered from the amounts notified and initially defined during the audit.
- The number of cases lost as a result of a judicial appeal compared to the number of cases scheduled and programmed.
- The rate of users declaring themselves satisfied with the conditions of the tax audit.
- Percentage of controls cracking down on the most serious and characterized frauds.
- Percentage of audits that identified cases of tax arrangements related to international taxation.
The indicators must be formalized and generalized to all directions in order to be able to carry out a transparent assessment of tax audit performance in a relevant way at the national level.
The performance of the tax audit can only be achieved through a relevant, objective and achievable strategy. This research work aimed at identifying and understanding the factors that influence the performance of tax audits has enabled us to observe that today a whole number of factors must be combined to achieve high tax audit performance.
Based on the results of the survey, we concluded that the strategy to be developed by the General Taxes Direction must necessarily encourage the mobilization of all its stakeholders.
The programming of files, which must be done during well-organized periods of the year, taking into consideration the deadlines granted for the tax audit and must be increasingly relevant and oriented towards high-stakes taxpayers while ensuring that the risks raised by the risk system implemented by the General Taxes Direction are taken into account; the cross-checking service, which must be efficient, valued, updated, in active collaboration with the auditors and involved in the performance process in which the General Taxes Direction is involved. Also in terms of procedures, why not consider the point of computerizing them for greater efficiency.
In addition, the General Taxes Direction should consider reframing the indicators for evaluating the performance of tax audits in order to apply them and generalize them in all departments while ensuring that they are monitored at the central level.
All these factors combined will only improve the performance of the tax audit within the Moroccan tax administration to pursue its objective of combating tax fraud and evasion. However, this study, like any empirical research, raises the question of generalization of the results, that in order to be able to generalize them, a study on a large sample at the level of all regional and provincial tax authorities is still necessary.
- Bouchra El Khamlichi; Nihad Dine-Dine, March 2018, Tax audit, and Company valuation
- Évelyne Poincelot et Grégory Wegmann, 2005/2, Use of non-financial criteria to evaluate or guide performance: theoretical analysis, (Volume 11), pages 109 – 125
- Jean-Luc Rossignol, 2010, Taxation and overall responsibility of the company
- Activity Report, 2016, of the General Taxes Direction
- Activity Report, 2017, of the General Taxes Direction
- Anicet Jerson NOUKPO, 2009, Memory: Approach for a better performance of tax centers of medium-sized enterprises in Benin.
- Ikram Gheriss, November 2007, Professional thesis: The performance of tax audit in Morocco
- Ines Menchaoui, June 16, 2015, Identification and impact of tax management practices on the tax performance of corporate groups: a study conducted in the Tunisian context.
- Mohamed HARAKAT, Professor at the University Mohammed V Souissi Raba (Morocco), Governance and tax content ( The case of Morocco)
- Taxpayer’s Charter on Tax Auditing, General Taxes Direction, Edition 2018