Some ideas to encourage the issuance of invoices and to combat false invoices

Alfredo CollosaAlfredo Collosa    25 September 2020
Some ideas to encourage the issuance of invoices and to combat false invoices

The tax evasion that occurs both by the non-issuance of invoices and also by the use of false, irregular or imitated invoices is an issue that due to its relevance and social consequences must be considered in any control strategy of the Tax Administrations (TAs).

Hereby I will try to review some of the best practices that were used or are being used in different countries to combat both types of maneuvers.

Regarding the measures adopted to encourage the issuance of invoices, among others, it is worth highlighting the programs that encourage taxpayers to request invoices and with their data allow them to participate in prize draws.

Another way to encourage the issuance of invoices is by forcing taxpayers to have to enter in the application program, which generates the income tax declaration, all the data of the inovoice received in order to carry out the deduction of an expense or service in income tax.

For example, to deduct from income tax the expense of a paid rent, it is requested that the number of the invoice, data of the issuer and the amount be identified.

The laws of many of the countries receive the sanctions of fine and closure of the establishment,  which is applied to those who do not issue invoices for their sales operations or service provision.

It also established the obligation of end consumers to demand proof of their operations and the application of sanctions in case of breach of said obligation.

In other countries "benefit programs" were created, similar to those granted by financial entities or airlines where points or miles are added. The objective is by loading the data of the invoices received, benefits can be obtained.

All the aforementioned measures seek to incentivize, above all, final consumers to demand proof of their transactions.

Obviously, the bankarization of operations contributes to the issuance of invoices since in many countries there are information regimes for financial institutions and credit card issuers to report the operations carried out to the TAs.

Unfortunately, practice has shown that many of these measures do not have the desired effects in many countries.

That is why it seems to me that if there were a specific incentive for end consumers, such as allowing them to deduct a percentage of their purchase invoices in the payment of other taxes, the measures could be more effective.

Regarding the second evasion maneuver analyzed, that is, false or imitated invoices, it is important to note that their use is not only for tax purposes, since they are also used to justify irregular purchases, money laundering operations, corruption in public tenders, payment of bribes and also financial support for organized crime and terrorism[1].

It is essential to investigate in every country the causes that originate this phenomenon and its magnitude, in order to combat it more efficiently.

 

The causes range from high informality, nonbanking operations, simplified systems, the globalization of businesses, digital currencies, lack of a control strategy by the TAs, non-application of effective sanctions by the judicial authorities, etc.

With respect to the magnitude of fraud, of great use are the sectorial evasion studies that allow for determining not only the sector or group of taxpayers that are incurring in the maneuvers, but also which type of maneuvers are the most common ones.

The most common maneuvers for generating and using this type of vouchers have become ever more complex through time and the ICTs.

I am convinced that technology should simplify taxes. Because of this simplification, the TAs are becoming digital Administrations, with the concept of virtual office being highlighted.

Today, you may request online the registration number, the registration in the different taxes, register activities carried out, change the tax domicile, inform the members of corporations. You may also establish an enterprise, issue electronic invoices, file the returns, pay taxes, quickly obtain the refund of balances in your favor, customs reimbursements, certificates to enter into contracts with the Government, to mention only a few of the improvements.

These advancements generated by the Tax Administrations through ICTs have also resulted in new and much more complex forms of fraud, through the use of false other than the traditional invoices.

For example, only by having available an IP, one may generate a company exclusively for purposes of issuing false invoices. There are cases that are extremely complex, since they involve real businesses, which nevertheless, simulate operations well above their productive capacity to obtain tax benefits.

ICTs are available to everyone, namely those who wish to use them to evade, as well as to the TAs for a more efficient management. There is a significant gap in its use by the private sector as compared to the public sector, especially in many developing countries, which undoubtedly constitutes a challenge for the TAs.

One of the first measures adopted, worldwide, to control false or imitated invoices was the possibility of validating the vouchers on the tax authorities' portals.

Other measures were the creation of unreliable taxpayer databases and their publication.

In countries like Mexico, the detection of abusive Schemes by Billing Companies for Simulated Operations (EFOS) and Companies that Deduct Simulated Operations (EDOS) was implemented.

The generalization of the electronic invoice (FE) is a great advance that has multiple benefits for the TAsand that added other preventive control measures can decisively help to combat the fraud of false invoices.

A next step is the digital VAT books and a subsequent step is the digital accounting carried out online at the headquarters of the TAs' websites.

However, I note that in many countries there is overconfidence that FE solves the problem of false invoices, but in practice it is proving not to be the case as there are cases of false electronic invoices.

Many times when the TAs come to control the cases, all the VAT on these vouchers has already been returned to the exporters, for which I understand that the FE must be complemented with other measures.

Other measures adopted include limiting the authorization of the issuance of vouchers to subjects with irregularities or withholding 100% of VAT on invoices issued by subjects with inconsistencies in their tax behavior.

Others are moving rapidly towards Compliance Risk Management models, for example to process returns and generate audits.

For its part, there are already TAs that are trying to measure the economic capacity of taxpayers in order to authorize or not the issuance of vouchers.

Many countries also have in their criminal laws expressly defined as a criminal offense on the subject.

Some TAs are carrying out the traceability of certain products important to their economies in order to associate the physical movement of goods with the electronic documentation issued and financial flows, in order to detect the issuance of false receipts.

New approaches to cooperative or collaborative compliance are also highlighted in which a new relationship is established between the TAs and taxpayers, such as the forums of large companies already created in many countries, the Codes of Good Practices, the figure of reliable operators, both in the customs field as tax.

Likewise, the taxpayer certified in VAT of the Directive of the European Union, tax compliance and Directive 2018/822 of the European Union on DAC tax intermediaries according to which tax intermediaries must notify the TAsof cases of fraud.

Other measures adopted is the establishment of the subjects who are the beneficial owners of the companies and goods.

In short, these are some of the measures that were adopted to combat both the non-issuance of invoices and the use of false receipts, surely there will be others that I have omitted.

Finally and as a conclusion I want to highlight some final ideas:

  • It is essential to inquire in each country regarding the causes that originate these maneuvers and their magnitude in order to combat them more efficiently, for which the sectoral evasion studies are very useful, which allow knowing not only which sector or which group of taxpayers are committing the maneuvers but also what type of maneuvers are the most common.
  • The control strategy must be unique, coordinating both types of controls, massive and intensive, as I mentioned in a timely manner.[2]. With the great information available to the TAs through their exploitation, more preventive controls should be generated, while emphasizing the importance of subsequent controls.
  • A system of prior controls and online alerts similar to that applied by financial institutions to grant and control the use of credit cards can come to bear in certain cases of false invoices.
  • New investigation and control methods based on predictive models of behaviors associated with risk profiles, data mining and big data may be important to be able to anticipate these forms of tax fraud.
  • Banking operations is key since reducing informality will decrease evasion, without neglecting the control of operations carried out by digital currencies.
  • In this sense, if there is something positive about the current Covid 19 pandemic, it is that it has caused many companies to digitize and sell more products or provide services by accepting means of bank payments.
  • To encourage the issuance of invoices, I think it should be analyzed to establish a specific incentive for end consumers, such as allowing them to deduct a percentage of their purchase invoices in the payment of other taxes.
  • Cooperation with other TAsand Organizations within the country as well as abroad is also vital not only to share information but to jointly address the different types of fraud.
  • In many countries there is overconfidence that FE solves the problem of false or imitated invoices, but in reality there are cases of false and imitated electronic invoices, which is why additional measures are required.
  • Citizens must continue to be made aware of the consequences of these frauds and apply effective sanctions to these crimes in accordance with the criminal codes of each country.
  • It is important to analyze these best practices that I have always mentioned, considering the context and scope of action, since the experiences of automatically applying solutions from other countries have not always been successful.

[1] False Invoices and Tax Fraud - Alfredo Collosa - CIAT Blog 03/21/2019.

[2]  Massive or intensive controls? What should be the strategy of the Tax Administrations? CIAT blog 8/13/2018.

Other articles by Alfredo Collosa


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