Invisible Taxation through big Data Analytics – Do we scarify our privacy for convenience? (EN)

Invisible Taxation through big Data Analytics – Do we scarify our privacy for convenience?

Finance Seminar by Tina Ehrke-Rabel (Université de Graz)

December 2018,  Thursday 6 (12:00 pm) - N1 – Room 1701




Algorithms are being used by businesses to attract customers in the most targeted way possible or to select the best employees, they are being increasingly used by public bodies to prevent or prosecute crime, to calculate certain lump sum expenses to be deducted from the tax base or to select taxpayers for audit. Intelligence services use big data algorithms even more intrusively to protect national security. In theory, big data analytics set up with the insights of behavioural economics can render taxation „close to invisible“ to the taxpayers and thus increase efficiency, effectiveness for the State and convenience for the taxpayer.
However, liberal democracies are founded on the concept of personal autonomy and free choice of the individual. Interferences with personal autonomy are subject to strict prerogatives.
The workshop will address the subject from an utopia, where taxpayers are not being aware of their status of a taxpayer anymore because filing of tax returns and collaborating in the form of answering requests and allowing to be audited have been supplanted by the big tax brother not only watching but also scoring taxpayers and directly interacting with their payment service providers. It will be argued that, although we are being distant from this utopia we might be approaching it. It shall be discussed if this is the solution we want to tackle tax non-compliance. I plead for upholding and defending the core values of liberal democracies and for refraining from equalising tax non-compliance with serious crimes such as terrorism or money laundering. However, I believe that big data analytics have the potential of increasing efficiency and effectiveness of tax administrations without necessarily undermining individual autonomy, if properly framed.

Prof. Ehrke-Rabel is Full Professor at the University of Graz (Austria) and Director of the Institute of Tax and Fiscal Law.
She studied Law at the University of Graz and at the University of Paris-Nanterre and Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne.
She has been active in research on tax procedure in an international, European and
comparative context for a number of years. Her expertise lies predominantly in European tax law, Value Added Tax, tax procedure and constitutioal aspects of taxation. She has published recently papers on co-operative compliance in tax matters, the impact of sanctions on taxpayer’s compliance and more generally on the challenges of globalization and digitalization for tax collection and enforcement.