Wolfgang Büttner is sending an applicable message to the tax experts of the future at the time of his retirement

Diána Schreiter's picture
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Our beloved Mr. Wolfgang Büttner, Tax Expert and responsible person for BEPS at IOTA, will reach his well-deserved retirement in the beginning of June 2020. He started his career as a Tax Inspector in Essen in 1978 and with commitment, precision and excellent sense of diplomacy worked his way to the European Commission, the OECD and the German Ministry of Finance. He joined IOTA in 2017 where he spent 3 fruitful years.

In the name of the whole IOTA family, we would like to wish Wolfgang health, happiness and a lot of great adventures. He will be greatly missed.

  • Vegard in his “office” (i.e. with his laptop and computer bag) in the conference hall for the IOTA Annual Conference “Tax compliance technology showroom” in Tbilisi in October 2019When you look back to your career what are you the proudest of?

Well, I am very proud of the positive feedback and the reward that I received whenever I was organising and delivering international events, such as workshops, seminars, and forums on behalf of the OECD and IOTA. However, I am proudest of having contributed to the revision of the 1995 OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines and to making tax administrations around the world more efficient and fair.  

  • And on the other hand, what was the biggest challenge which you managed to conquer?

The biggest challenge was taking over the responsibility for coordinating, delivering and overseeing the content, quality and coherence of data collected from the IOTA member tax administrations on the International Survey of Revenue Administration (ISORA) when I started my secondment with IOTA. This task required not only a proficient knowledge and understanding of performance indicators of tax administrations, but also strong IT skills, in particular with regard to data processing. The assistance of and close collaboration with the ISORA experts from the international partner organisations IMF and OECD, which are also involved in the ISORA project, helped me accomplish this challenging task.

  • Have you ever thought about other career paths that would have been suitable for you besides taxation?

After graduation from high school, I was quite undecided which academic discipline I should study at university. Since I had a major in English and French and also liked travelling to foreign countries very much, I was thinking of English and Romance studies and geography to become a high school teacher. However, I was first drafted into compulsory military service for 18 months. So, I had more time to reflect about my future profession and finally decided to study economics because this seemed more promising in terms of career opportunities. Looking back, I can say that I have never regretted my decision to study economics and work in the public sector. As an international tax expert, I had the opportunity to work for several years in a multicultural work environment in several countries and go on many interesting missions to Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.   

Wolfgang with Eugenijus Soldatkovas at IOTA's 21st General Assembly

  • Do you remember any funny story from IOTA which you would like to share?

Yes, I do. It was at the beginning of the 2nd meeting of the IOTA Forum on BEPS in December 2018. I was just explaining the agenda of the meeting to the audience when I was disturbed by the ringing of someone’s mobile phone.  So, I asked all participants to kindly turn off their mobile phones. However, the ringing did not stop and I became quite irritated. Suddenly, my IOTA colleague Massimo Morarelli rushed to the coat stand at the entrance door of the meeting room, took one of the coats and left the meeting room. Immediately, the ringing could not be heard anymore. I was relieved and at the same time embarrassed because it turned out that it was my own coat.   

  • What will you miss the most from IOTA?

Apart from not belonging to the ”IOTA family” any longer, i.e. working in a cross-cultural work environment with my colleagues in the IOTA Secretariat, the PCPs and Shadow PCPS, as well as the members of the IOTA Forum on BEPS, I will certainly miss travelling to IOTA member countries, delivering IOTA events, meeting tax officials from different IOTA tax administration members and sharing my knowledge and experience with them.

  • Do you have anyone in your mind to whom you are grateful in your career? What would you like to tell her/him?

Yes, one person comes to mind immediately: Mr. Bernd Runge, my former Head of the Double Tax Treaties and Transfer Pricing Division in the German Ministry of Finance.

Back in 1994, I was a tax auditor at the Federal Central Tax Office in Bonn, auditing multinational enterprises. I also participated in mutual agreement procedures (MAPs) relating to transfer pricing, and in that regard had met Mr. Runge, who was a competent authority for Germany. One day, Mr. Runge called me and asked if I would be interested in working as a seconded tax expert at the Centre for Tax Policy and Administration at the OECD in Paris for two years to assist in the revision of the 1995 OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines. I did not think about it long and agreed. This was the beginning of my international career. After my secondment at the OECD, I moved to the German Ministry of Finance and was promoted to Deputy Head of Division in Mr. Runge’s Division. Later on, I worked for the European Commission for 3 years, for the OECD again for another 6 years, and lately for IOTA. Mr. Runge was my mentor and greatly promoted the development of my international career. I would like to tell him how much I thank him for his commitment and support and also for his willingness to share his vast knowledge and experience in international taxation with me.

Wolfgang with Ernst Czakert, Head of Division, German Ministry of Finance, at IOTA's 21st General Assembly

  • Please tell us your plans for the years to come. Do you plan to work or will you dive into your hobbies?

I enjoyed the interaction with tax officials from different countries and assisting tax administrations in capacity building very much. I plan, therefore, to continue working as a consultant, for example for "Tax Inspectors Without Borders”, a joint OECD-UNDP initiative assisting developing countries in building tax audit capacity, as a TADAT (“Tax Administration Diagnostic Assessment Tool”) assessor, or in some other form providing technical assistance. I could also envisage to lecture international taxation, in particular transfer pricing, double tax treaties, and topics around BEPS (“Base Erosion and Profit Shifting”).  

  • Do you have any advice to the next generation of tax experts? How should they overcome potential challenges?

Businesses and tax administrations alike are currently undergoing a major digital transformation. New technologies, like AI and machine learning, are being introduced in tax administrations. At the same time, globalisation is increasing. These developments pose new challenges and opportunities and will change the role of tax experts in future. Digitalisation and enhanced international cooperation require new competencies from tax experts. I would, therefore, encourage the next generation of tax officials to be open-minded, maintain the ability of lifelong learning, including integrating information, and the ability to judge and to evaluate. The capacity to connect, including working together or teamwork, networking skills and empathy will also help overcome the challenges. And finally, flexibility and the capacity to structure, including planning, organising and simplifying information will be utmost important. I would also recommend the next generation of tax experts to aim at working in a multicultural and multinational team and to enjoy cultural diversity.

Wolfgang with Ignacio del Rio Angulo, Head of the International Relations Unit, Spanish Tax Agency, at the 3rd Meeting of the Inclusive Framework on BEPS


Check out a longer interview with Wolfgang where he talks about BEPS, life in Budapest, Hungary and his international missions as a Tax Expert at IOTA, in our 39th Edition of Tax Tribune Magazine from page 22 to 25.