Foundation of the "Institute for Empirical Tax Research" by the Federal Government

The German government has taken up a suggestion made by the Scientific Advisory Council at the Federal Ministry of Finance and is seeking to establish an “Institute for Empirical Tax Research” (IfeS). The background to this is the report “Necessity, potential and starting points for improving the data infrastructure for tax policy” (05/2020) by the Scientific Advisory Board of October 30, 2020. In addition to the expansion and improvement of official tax statistics and the creation or expansion of linkage possibilities with other statistical data sets, the Council proposed in it the establishment of a research data center for taxes in order to improve scientific policy advice and thus the empirical foundation of tax policy measures.

Members of the FDP parliamentary group addressed the German government on September 7, 2021 in a small question (BT-Drs.: 19/32286). On the one hand, the question asks whether the federal government has already examined and evaluated existing research projects on German tax data and cooperation between the federal states and universities. On the other hand, the FDP parliamentary group would like to know whether the German government shares the opinion of the Scientific Advisory Board that there must be a legal basis for the transfer of tax data by the state tax authorities to the IfeS that goes beyond paragraph 21 (6) FVG.

In its response of September 22, 2021 (printed matter 19/32541), the German government refers to the current review of the design of the institutional framework for the planned IfeS. The goal is to promote high-quality and internationally visible empirical research for the entire federal territory in the area of tax policy. In addition, the establishment of the IfeS is intended to improve the data infrastructure in the area of taxation and to strengthen evidence-based policy advice on taxation issues. With regard to the legal basis, the Federal Ministry of Finance notes that data access to formally and factually anonymized data from the taxation procedure already exists via the research data centers of the Federal Statistical Office and the statistical offices of the states. Whether data protection and tax secrecy issues would necessitate legal changes is currently being examined. In addition, based on the data pursuant to paragraph 21(6) of the FVG, research is being conducted on the generation of synthetic tax assessment data to be made available to the scientific community. This opening of alternative possibilities for the provision of data is of particular interest against the background of tax secrecy and data protection. However, the actual question as to whether the Federal Government shares the legal opinion of the Scientific Advisory Board is not answered. From IDSt’s point of view, the objective of the IfeS is to be welcomed. This is because empirical findings from tax microdata sets would be of interest to numerous IDSt technical committees. This applies in particular to those expert committees that deal with the digitizability of tax law nomenclature (FA I), the standardization of information obligations (FA II, III, IV) and the treatment of tax risk areas (FA V).

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