A new way to submit tax information – the concept of a Standard Audit File for Tax as of 1 July 2016
On 5 October 2015, the President signed the Act of 10 September 2015 on Amending the Tax Regulations Act and Some Other Acts (Journal of Laws of 2015, item 1649). This act implements the concept of the so-called Standard Audit File for Tax (hereinafter referred to as "SAF-T") - an idea developed by the OECD which requires taxpayers using computer programs to submit accounting books and evidence in the form of structured format files. With the use of appropriate algorithms, the format will automatically allow tax authorities to extract the required substantive data and to verify them.
Art. 193a added to the Tax Regulations Act introduces an obligation to submit data in a specific, structured format. According to the Article, tax authorities shall have the right to require some or all accounting books and evidence to be submitted in electronic form in compliance with specific logical structures and by means of electronic communication or digital data carriers. Models of the aforementioned logical structures were published in Public Information Bulletin of the Ministry of Finance (Biuletyn Informacji Publicznej Ministerstwa Finansów) on 23 December 2015: https://www.mf.gov.pl/kontrola-skarbowa/dzialalnosc/jednolity-plik-kontrolny. Comments on the subject may be made until 26 January 2016 to the following e-mail address: email@example.com. The final form taking into consideration the comments will be presented in the Regulation of the Minister of Finance which will most likely be issued in March/April 2016. It will include technical details relating to the method of submitting accounting books or evidence by means of electronic communication and it will list the types of information storage media on which any such books or evidence may be saved.
According to the explanatory note to the draft act, the SAF-T should apply to:
- tax proceedings;
- tax audits;
- verification activities, including verification activities of a taxpayer's contractor - provided that the taxpayer's contractor keeps accounting books with the use of computer programs.
The amendment shall enter into force on 1 July 2016 and as of that date it will apply to large enterprises within the meaning of the Act on Freedom of Economic Activity. Under the transitional provisions, in the period from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2018, small and medium entrepreneurs will have no obligation to provide data in accordance with the standard; however, they will be able to do it optionally. Thus, this category of taxpayers will be required to submit data to tax authorities in the form of SAF-T only as of 1 July 2018. At the same time, it should be noted that creating the transitional provisions deferring the moment of SAF-T being compulsory at the request of tax authorities, the legislator did not refer in any way to the category of micro-enterprises. However, on the assumption of rationality of the legislator, the aforementioned transitional period should be considered to apply to them as well. Hopefully, this questionable issue will have been resolved before the entry into force of the new regulation.
The introduction of this kind of standardisation of data reporting to tax authorities will significantly automate tax audits, which should shorten the duration of audits and increase their efficiency. Submitting data in electronic form should also save taxpayers' time and reduce their administrative costs associated with delivering documents to tax offices. On the other hand, it should be noted that taxpayers will need to have software allowing them to submit data in the requested format - which may lead to additional costs related to the acquisition or extension of the one used previously. With this in mind, a specific audit of the financial and accounting system in use, as well as the IT system in general, should be carried out without delay in order to adapt them to the new regulations, taking into account additional risks involved with transferring data in electronic form. In the event of failure to implement the changes on time, one must bear in mind possible criminal and fiscal liability for obstructing tax audit procedures.
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