2020 ATI General Assembly strengthens political commitment to the ATI Declaration 2025

Full report

More than 100 (high-level) decision makers, tax practitioners and development cooperation experts from 50 nations participated at the ATI General Assembly on 17 November in order to ignite high-level commitment and ownership for the new ATI Declaration 2025. At this occasion, the new ATI Declaration 2025 was presented to the General Assembly.  The new declaration will bring new energy and enthusiasm to the field of DRM. It emphasises the importance of enhancing tax systems and reforms to increase available means for financing SDG-relevant sectors, such as health and education. Fostering capacity building, equitable tax policies, efficient and transparent revenue administration, policy coherence and the role of accountability stakeholders in this area is crucial.  

In fall 2019, the ATI Steering Committee established a Task Force to develop a new declaration for the years to come. The following nine ATI members were mandated to equally represent the different constituencies of the ATI (partner countries, development partners and supporting organisations) in the ATI post-2020 Task Force: Kenya, Georgia, Madagascar, the European Commission (EC), Norway, Germany, the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and Oxfam. As a result, the ATI post-2020 Task Force and all ATI members jointly created the new ATI Declaration 2025, which was presented at the 2020 ATI General Assembly. Approximately 50 ATI members provided feedback to the draft versions of the declaration.

By envisaging “tax systems that work for people and advance the SDGs”, the new ATI Declaration 2025 represents a collective commitment by ATI members to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda’s ambitious goals. During the presentation of the ATI Declaration 2025, Erica Gerretsen, Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development at the European Commission and Joseph Sirengo, of the Kenya Revenue Authority underlined the document’s orientation along recent experiences of development assistance and the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, the new commitments introduce the dimension of equity, with a shift of focus to “quality” of cooperation to enhance DRM. The new ATI Declaration 2025 remodels the initial three commitments of the previous Declaration, while adding a fourth  commitment that addresses the importance of integrating accountability stakeholders to engage in revenue matters.

In the keynote address, Logan Wort, Executive Secretary of the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) highlighted some of today’s major challenges to DRM in a global context. Mr. Wort emphasized the ATI’s important role – in particular for the African continent – as less developed countries that are highly dependent on aid need to be supported to improve their revenue collection capabilities. Structural changes are needed to build better tax systems. “We are quick to go for ‘easy to tax areas’- such as indirect taxes, VAT, which impoverishes big parts of our communities, women, the rural people, the informal sector – and we do not sufficiently tax personal income tax, high-wealth individuals, properties, we do not sufficiently look to international and corporate taxation”,  stated Wort. Cooperation is important to support partner countries to enhance DRM, but further coherence of activities is needed - not only policy coherence, but coherence with the country programs – and this topic is well addressed by the new ATI Commitment 2.  Furthermore, Mr. Wort stressed additional challenges such as the need for country-ownership of tax reforms and to re-think tax exemptions arising from international treaties and taxation in extractive industries. The ATI Declaration 2025 aims to respond to these challenges.

“Committing to give the ATI five more years shows the deep realisation that is taking root, that public DRM is the most important key to unlock the SDGs”, stated Dag-Inge Ulstein, Minister of International Development of Norway. Dr. Juergen Zattler, from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), emphasized the importance of the dimensions of equity and responding to climate change, tax evasion and tax avoidance through fiscal policies. The centrality of equity, country-ownership and civil society participation on development cooperation for DRM was also underlined by  Lan Mercado, Asia Regional Director, Oxfam, Felix Fernández-Shaw, Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development, European Commission, Michael Klosson, Vice President for Policy and Humanitarian Response, Save the Children US, and Warren Krafchik, Executive Director, International Budget Partnership, IBP, who issued their strong support to the ATI Declaration 2025.

Regarding DRM cooperation for the implementation of country-owned tax reforms, Rispah Simiyu, Commissioner for Domestic Taxes at the Kenya Revenue Authority, affirmed that enhancing DRM based on equitable tax policy, efficiency and effectiveness of tax systems is a priority for Kenya and welcomed the commitment of development partners to support country-owned initiatives in this regard. Thomas Nah, Commissioner General at the Liberia Revenue Authority, pointed out that broad-based capacity building and long-term partnerships are needed to reform tax systems and achieve sustainable results. « The results show that the ATI is a relevant initiative to encourage collective action not only for revenue mobilisation in partner countries but also and above all to ensure the coordination of the interventions of technical and financial partners», added Germain, Directeur General for Taxes in Madagascar.

Finland is a proud member of the ATI”, affirmed Ville Skinnari, Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade of Finland, along with many other high-level representatives from ATI members that expressed their commitment to the ATI Declaration 2025 and its alignment to the countries and organisations’ policies. The importance of international cooperation to improve DRM was highlighted by James Duddridge, Minister for Africa at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, UK, Marcio Verdi, Executive Director, Inter-American Centre of Tax Administrations, CIAT, and Eduard Heger, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Slovak Republic. Cyrille Pierre, from the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs in France, pointed out that an effective multilateral approach is more necessary than ever to respond to the impact of the COVID crisis on public finances. Furthermore, Mr. Pierre highlighted the ATI’s importance as the only strategic forum facilitating the coordination of partners on tax issues at the global level and emphasized that the ATI’s actions must be supported and expanded. The Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag stressed that ATI development partners have an important role to play not only regarding technical assistance but also in policy-coherence, for example when it comes to tax treaties with partner countries.

The ATI Co-Chair Laura Wilson closed the first day of the 2020 ATI General Assembly and invited all members to endorse the ATI Declaration 2025. For more information on the second day of the ATI General Assembly, please click here.