SERBIAN FISCAL SOCIETY – NATIONAL BRANCH OF IFA
In 2016 the Serbian Fiscal Society commemorates its tenth anniversary. The foundation of the Serbian Fiscal Society on 11 December 2006 was coordinated with the International Fiscal Association (IFA) – the oldest and the most influential international professional organization in the field of taxation, with the membership that then stood at more than 11,500 from 96 countries. There were only 57 countries where IFA members have established IFA branches. Ten years later IFA has 12,500 members from 113 countries, out of which national branches exist in 68.
With one individual member directly linked to the Central IFA in 2006 (the signatory of this text), tax professionals in Serbia decided to establish an IFA branch. The establishment was carried out in accordance with the national legislation on associations of individuals, as well as with the IFA guidelines. The Association was named Srpsko fiskalno društvo (Serbian Fiscal Society – abbreviated: SFS).
The objectives of SFS, identical with the objectives of IFA, are the study and advancement of international and comparative law in regard to public finance, specifically international and comparative fiscal (tax) law and the financial and economic aspects of taxation. Having initially admitted 26 members that met strict criteria, SFS made possible for them to become IFA members – immediately after SFS had been recognized by IFA as its 53rd Branch at the 61st Congress of the International Fiscal Association held in Kyoto (30 September – 5 October 2007).
In the time of globalization the international tax issues are becoming increasingly numerous and of greater importance. Ever since its foundation in 1938 and especially in the period after the WW II, IFA has played an essential role both in the development of certain principles of international taxation and in providing possible solutions to problems arising in their practical implementation. It has been able to do so because its membership consists of high level representatives from both the private and the public sectors, including the universities, courts, tax administrations, ministries of finance, consulting and law firms and various non-governmental organizations. For almost 80 years of its existence IFA has maintained high standards in its debates and conclusions, pursuing its goals through its annual congresses, scientific publications (famous Cahiers) and research, following regularly current fiscal developments and changes in national legislations. Thus IFA has offered the necessary forum to experts belonging to different sectors of society, where opinions on topics of international taxation can be exchanged.
The members of SFS, who are through this Branch members of IFA, have the right to register for the annual Congresses at a reduced rate, while receiving free of charge the two volumes of the “Cahiers de Droit Fiscal International” published annually. The SFS members were present at IFA congresses with their national reports (on non-discrimination, tax treatment of cross-border interest of corporations, permanent establishment, tax treaties and tax avoidance, cross-border business restructuring, exchange of information and cross-border cooperation between tax authorities and the notion of tax and the elimination of international double taxation or double non-taxation) on six occasions since SFS’s admittance to IFA, including 2016 Congress in Madrid. Accessible to IFA members only are the Documents Databases and the List of IFA members, as well as the online versions of the IFA Cahiers as from 1980. SFS activities have from its foundation been and still are in full compliance with IFA activities.
The tax profession in Serbia is leaving early stages of its existence, enjoying rapid emancipation ever since 2001. In previous decades the clients used to be served on ad hoc basis by just few accountants or attorneys. With respect to the enactment and implementation of the tax laws, one should note that 1991 fiscal reform “melted away” quickly in 1992/1993 hyperinflation and unprecedented expansion of the gray economy, while the Republican Public Revenues Administration could not set itself free from the embrace of indestructible SDK (Public Payments Service, Payment Transactions Service, Agency for Clearings and Payments). In the first decade of the 21st century a new, comprehensive tax reform has been carried out firstly and a single Tax Administration (based on professional standards) has been established; these developments were followed by strong growth of consulting and law firms specialized for taxation issues. Several among them are subsidiaries of large international companies (Deloitte, KPMG, PwC, E&Y), while others emerged locally meeting high professional requirements. The Law on Tax Advising is under preparation (although for too long a time), while at the Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade – the leading higher education institution in Serbia – a compulsory course in Tax Law has been introduced at the fourth year of studies, ans International Tax Treaties Law is an optional one. Tax Law, International Tax Law, EU Tax Law and Public Finances are taught at master and doctoral studies. Ever since academic year 2006/2007 the post-graduate specialization studies for tax advisors have been organized, with a total of about 400 students (tax practitioners) attending them. The issues of taxation are also studied from their legal aspect at other law faculties in the state (within Financial Law or Tax Law) and from their economic aspects within Public Finances at the faculties of economics and faculties of law.
To conclude: SFS has the ambition to coordinate the efforts of the tax experts in Serbia to constitute a new profession that would meet high, internationally set standards. This goal cannot be achieved in isolation but in cooperation with foreign colleagues – through the channels of IFA and in cooperation with international organisations that deal with taxation. I think that I am not overstating in pointing out the great relevance of the appearance of two OECD capital books in Serbian: “OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and Tax Administrations” and “Model Tax Convention on Income and on Capital (Condensed Version)“ – publications translated from English by SFS members and published by SFS.
Since the beginning of 2016 in cooperation with the Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade SFS has on a monthly basis organised the seminar in Tax Law known as „Tax Evenings“. The leading experts from academia and tax consulting and law firms, with participation of tax professionals from the Ministry of Finance, Tax Administration and Fiscal Council, as well as the judges at Administrative Court present to quite large audience certain important tax law issues the practice has been dealing with. At conferences organised by SFS the leading international tax law experts deliver their lectures: Rick Krever, professor at Monash University in Melbourne, Joao Felix Pinto Nogueira, professor at Católica Lisbon School of Business & Economics and Adjunct of IBFD’s Academic Chairman, Danuše Nerudová, professor at Mendel University in Brno, Borbala Kolozs, professor at Corvinus University in Budapest and President of IFA-Hungary etc.
I would also mention that from time to time SFS forwards its proposals for the changes and amendments of tax laws to the Ministry of Finance and makes suggestions on how to enhance the performance of the Tax Administration.
In the years to come additional efforts will be made to intensify such activities – we believe with the support of institutions and firms which could only enjoy benefits from the further advancement of the tax profession in Serbia.
Prof. Dr. Dejan Popović,
President of SFS