‘The atmosphere of the Forum Meeting was very constructive and encouraging.’, said Suvi Katajamaa, Senior Advisor of the Finnish Tax Administration, who, together with his colleague Antti Heikonen, participated as a speaker in the recently organised IOTA Tax Debt Management Forum. The event was successfully held between 4th-6th October 2022, in Budapest, Hungary, and covered tailored strategies, working methods, as well as best practices to ensure effective debt management during high-impact events.
The main theme of the TDM Forum revolved around high-impact events that could lead to an unpredictable or unstable situation negatively affecting the regular functioning of a tax administration in relation to the management of tax debts at the regional, national, or international level.
Suvi and Antti’s presentation showcased The Finnish Preparedness Model in the Case of High-Impact Events and gained great interest among the attendees of the Forum Meeting. In the following interview they share their experiences from the TDM Forum, they reveal what makes the Finnish Preparedness Model special, in addition, why they believe that the high-impact events expand their ability to think outside the box and more.
Erika Szabo/IOTA Secretariat: Could you please tell us a bit about yourselves and your professional background?
Suvi Katajamaa, Finland: I have been working in Finnish Tax Administration for 9 years. I had worked in many different positions in our collections department before I started in this post as a senior adviser in Steering Unit for the Taxation Unit. I am responsible for matters that concern payment arrangements, tax reliefs and interruptions of enforced recovery. My task is to develop our processes in my responsibility areas. Before I started to work for the Finnish Tax Administration, I worked for several years in a private collection agency.
Antti Heikonen, Finland: I have more than 10 years of experience of working as a senior adviser at the Finnish Tax Administrations Steering Unit for the Taxation Unit. I am responsible for steering and developing our insolvency procedures. I have also experience in developing our collection process system.
ES: How did you feel at the Forum Meeting? What did you like the most about the event?
Suvi Katajamaa & Antti Heikonen: The atmosphere of the Forum Meeting was very constructive and encouraging. In our opinion, the most interesting part of the meeting was to find out how other member countries had solved the same kind of challenges which we also had experienced during the Covid-19. It was also valuable to learn how others had developed their collection processes due to Covid-19.
ES: Your presentation ran under the theme of The Finnish Preparedness Model in Case of High- Impact Events. How could you describe this Preparedness Model? What makes this model special?
Suvi Katajamaa & Antti Heikonen: Firstly, in Finland, it is mandatory by law that all authorities have preparedness models. In our preparedness model, we have acknowledged a few key risks and threats, and for those situations, we have prepared us for. That means, that we have not been concentrating on what kind of high impact events we could possibly be faced with, instead, we have been focusing on the effects that the high impact event would cause on our productions or functions, and for those threats, we have prepared us for.
In other words, we aim to secure that we can continue our critical operations even in conditions where we have disruptions in our processes or in our productions. We try to avoid situations where we would be forced to suspend or freeze the production of our critical operations.
For this kind of situation, we have a clear command chain and alternative measures which can be taken into action so that we can secure our critical operations. In our preparedness model, we have plans for a different levels of disruptions. What kind of plan we choose to take into action depends on the disruptions’ expected effect, extent and disruptions estimated duration before we can solve it.
Furthermore, we review and update our preparedness model and our plans yearly. It is an ongoing process. We aim to identify areas where we could improve our models and plans constantly. We also use our resources to train, practise and test our plans. We believe that this leads us to the best possible outcome.
ES: You described the Finnish Tax Administration as a well-developed IT house, wherein the collection automation level is very high as well as the overall automation level. How is your administration prepared in the case the IT functions go down?
Suvi Katajamaa & Antti Heikonen: We believe that our administration is well prepared for the possibility in which our IT functions would go down. This threat has been covered in different levels of our preparedness model. For example, we have a possibility to freeze some or even all our operations if necessary, so that in the meantime we can get our IT functions up and running.
If we would have suffered data losses due to a major disruption in our IT functions, our preparedness models include a recovery plan in which we have listed out the measures we need to make so that we would be able to return to normal conditions. In our recovery plan, it is instructed on how we operate in circumstances where we have broken data and how we secure that the data has been fixed and that it is up to date before we start operating with it again.
ES: How do these events can influence the operation of your tax administration?
Suvi Katajamaa & Antti Heikonen: We get valuable ideas on how to develop our operations to work even better. We also get to expand our understanding of how other European member countries have solved the same kind of problems which we have faced in case of high impact events. Due to that, we believe that this kind of events expands our ability to think outside the box.
ES: And finally, what are your three main takeaways from the TDM Forum?
Suvi Katajamaa & Antti Heikonen: Three main things we valued most in this meeting were networking with our colleagues and the possibility to see where the Finnish Tax Administration functions and operations stand compared to other European member countries in general and in case of high impact events. In our opinion, it was also very valuable to have an opportunity to share our best practices and learn from others member countries' best practices.
If you are interested in the Finns’ presentation and would like to discover more about the TDM Forum, head over to the event’s webpage on the IOTA website.