As a result of several complaints, Deputy-Ombudsman Maija Sakslin has assessed the delay in the processing of claims for a revised decision of individual customers in the Tax Administration.
Processing the claims for a revised decision took more than two and a half years
In the Individual Taxation Unit, the complainant's claims for a revised decision were pending for 14 months without active measures. They were also pending at the Assessment Adjustment Board for 9 months before the Adjustment Board returned them for preparation to the Individual Taxation Unit following a report they received.
As a result, the total processing time of the complainant's claim for a revised decision was pending for more than two years without active measures. Although the Assessment Adjustment Board states that it was waiting for a ruling from the Administrative Court which affected the matter, the Deputy-Ombudsman could not consider it acceptable that in a case that had already been pending for an unreasonably long time, the Adjustment Board only returned the matters to preparation after 9 months.
The Deputy-Ombudsman noted that the processing of the complainant's claims for a revised decision in the Tax Administration did not fulfil the right to have a case handled properly and without undue delay under the Constitution. Taking into account also the financial significance of the matter to the complainant, the amount added to the complainant's income totalled approximately EUR 430,000, the Deputy-Ombudsman issued a reprimand to the Tax Administration on its unlawful negligence to handle the complainant's claims for a revised decision appropriately and without undue delay.
Multiple long processes
In the second complaint, the processing of the claim for a revised decision significantly exceeded the 12-month processing time estimate reported by the Tax Administration. When assessing the reprehensibility of the matter, the Deputy-Ombudsman took into account the financial significance of the matter to the complainant. According to the estimate, the matter concerned salary income added to the complainant's income from several years and the fact that the Tax Administration had apologised for the processing time of the complainant's claim for a revised decision. The Deputy-Ombudsman concerning the Tax Administration of her view that the processing time of the claim for a revised decision of more than 20 months did not meet the right under the Constitution for everyone to have their case handled appropriately and without undue delay and was thus unlawful.
In other complaints under evaluation by the Deputy-Ombudsman, the processing times for claims for a revised decision were 19 months, 17 months and 16 months. Even though the processing times of both the Individual Taxation Unit and the Assessment Adjustment Board were less than the 12 months which is the Tax Administration's processing time target, according to the Deputy-Ombudsman, the total processing times of the adjustment requirements were unreasonably long from the perspective of the client.
According to the Tax Administration, it has already organised more staff to process pending claims for revised decisions and processed the claims for a revised decision in a more efficient manner in order to reduce processing times. In 2021, the Tax Administration's objective is to process the requirements for a revised decision in individual taxation within an average of 250 days of receiving them.
The Deputy-Ombudsman noted that according to the processing time estimate that was updated on the Tax Administration's website on 8 September 2020, the processing time estimate for claims for a revised decision concerning income taxation was 12 months. However, according to processing time estimates that were updated on the website on 19 April 2021 and 3 September 2021, the processing time is 16-18 months.
According to the Deputy-Ombudsman, such a long general processing time for the claims for revised decisions is an issue from the perspective of the proper implementation of the legal protection of tax administration customers. Especially in cases in which an appeal is filed after a claim for adjustment, the appeal phase extends the total processing time of the matter. It is therefore important for the proper observance of legal protection that the claims for adjustment are processed promptly. Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin brought her opinions to the attention of the Tax Administration.
The full text of Deputy-Ombudsman Maija Sakslin's decisions regarding long processing times at the Tax Administration were published (in Finnish) on the Parliamentary Ombudsman's website at oikeusasiamies.fi: 4973/2020, 8222/2020, 5403/2020, 7429/2020 and 8496/2020.
Further information is available from Principal Legal Advisor Ulla-Maija Lindström, tel. +358 9 432 3355.