The Executive Secretary of IOTA participated digitally as a panellist at the 17th West African Tax Administration Forum (WATAF) General Assembly and high-level policy dialogue on “Taxation of the Digital Economy” on 22nd September 2021.
The event took place in Nigeria, In Abuja for 2 days with a hybrid of physical and virtual meetings due to protocols relating to COVID-19.
This panel focused on “The Role of International Tax Organisations in Building Capacity of Tax Administrations” and was aimed to examine the extent to which members of the Network of Tax Organisations (NTO) has been able to fulfil their mandate(s) in respect of enhancing capacity building in their respective jurisdictions and collectively as a group.
The panellists and the event were: Logan Wort - Executive Secretary, African Tax Admnistration Forum (ATAF); Catherine Lemesle – Secretary General, Cercle de Réflexions et d’Échange des Dirigeants des Administrations fiscales (CREDAF); Duncan Onduru – Commonwealth Association of Tax Administrators (CATA); Marcio Verdi – Executive Secretary, Inter-American Center of Tax Administrations (CIAT); and Alix Perrignon de Troyes - Executive Secretary (ES), Intra-European Organisation of Tax Administrations (IOTA).
Mrs. Perrignon de Troyes gave a presentation during Panel session 6: “The Role of International Tax Organisations in Building Capacity of Tax Administrations”. She elaborated on how the COVID-19 crisis has led to a rise in the use of online platforms to deliver capacity-building programmes. The questions to be addressed by IOTA were: How effective is the internet as a channel for delivering capacity building programmes? What are the likely constraints developing countries would face while utilising this channel? How effective is the internet as a channel for delivering capacity building programmes?
Alix Perrignon de Troyes, Executive Secretary of IOTA, at the 17th WATAF General Assembly
It was recalled that starting from March 2020, all IOTA events, both administrative and technical, have been conducted digitally using Microsoft Teams, providing possibilities for flexible and enhanced collaboration and exchange of practical experience among IOTA members.
Using the latest digital tools has enabled IOTA to extend its reach to members through promoting higher participation in digital events. Digital delivery has also meant we can offer a greater range of speakers/experts at our events, which has enhanced our technical content.
However, digital events, training and support can have drawbacks too – pointed out the ES. Face-to-face meetings/workshops deepen bilateral relationships as it allows the participants to build cooperative and sometimes even friendly relationships. Also, we may not have the same level of engagement or attention. Participants may be distracted by phone calls and emails, or only attend part of the event as they will dip in and out while attending other meetings.
Digital delivery requires certain technical capacity (hardware, software, infrastructure and know-how). Many developing countries do not yet have the required infrastructure to support the internet. Video streaming requires a stable, high-speed connection. In many countries, there isn’t a stable and reliable electricity supply, let alone the necessary broadband infrastructure. In addition, video streaming uses a lot of data which can be expensive (although most probably not as expensive as flying someone to another country to attend an event). If tax administrations do not have suitable IT equipment available already, the initial set-up costs can be high, often too high for office budgets that, in some cases, are being cut or frozen.
In her concluding remarks, the IOTA ES explained that after evaluating the advantages and weaknesses of both face-to-face meetings and virtual events, IOTA thinks about introducing a hybrid format where events and support are a mixture of physical and digital. It could be the best way forward for capacity building and knowledge transfer programmes.
At the end of the session, the moderator pointed out the need for greater cooperation between the organisations for the benefit of all, sharing experiences and knowledge.
Further information about the event can be found on the WATAF website.