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IT HARDWARE, SOFTWARE - SLOVAKS CAN NOW SUBMIT THEIR TAX RETURNS ONLINE, BUT THAT IS NOT AN END TO PAPERWORK

Cut taxing red tape - virtually

TAXPAYERS can now submit their tax returns via the Internet, though the system still has its shortcomings. For example, a taxpayer still has to personally sign an agreement with the Slovak tax administration and all the necessary attachments must be submitted to the tax office in hard copy. Critics therefore wonder if there really are benefits to electronic tax return forms.

POSTING tax returns could get easier.
photo: TASR

TAXPAYERS can now submit their tax returns via the Internet, though the system still has its shortcomings. For example, a taxpayer still has to personally sign an agreement with the Slovak tax administration and all the necessary attachments must be submitted to the tax office in hard copy. Critics therefore wonder if there really are benefits to electronic tax return forms.

The Tax Directorate counters that it is a good start and possible improvements in the current system depend on future changes in the law.

The Tax Directorate launched electronic tax return forms on March 7, 2005. "All those who register on the Internet portal www.drsr.sk and then get authorization from their tax office can [electronically] communicate with the tax administration," Robert Merva, the spokesman of the Tax Directorate, told The Slovak Spectator.

There are two categories in the system: one for holders of certified electronic signatures and one for those without.

The tax authorities recommend obtaining a certified electronic signature as it makes submitting a tax return on the Internet simpler. Currently, in Slovakia there are two organizations that are licensed to provide a taxpayer with the certified signature: D Trust Certifikačná Autorita in Bratislava and EVPÚ in Nová Dubnica.

The certified electronic signature is equal to a hard copy signature and a taxpayer using it would not be obliged to deliver some documents to the tax office in hard copy.

However, if you do not have a certified electronic signature, submitting a tax return via e-mail starts to be more complicated and one would hesitate to say whether it is any easier than the traditional way.

Taxpayers without a certified signature must first sign an agreement with the Tax Administration of the Slovak Republic (DSSR) and wait for authorization to submit an electronic tax return.

"A personal visit is still needed but it should only be the last time. After this visit and authorization, any client can communicate with a tax office through the Internet," Merva said.

However, the visit and authorization might be the last physical contact with a tax office but that does not mean it is the end of the paperwork.

After submitting a tax return via the Internet a taxpayer must also post the first page of the tax return and the "Statement on Submitting the Document Via Electronic Form" to the tax office within five days of submitting the online tax return.

Additionally, "all the compulsory tax return attachments must also be delivered to the tax office in their paper form," pointed out Merva.

The Tax Directorate still expects that those without electronic signatures will heavily outweigh the number of clients. In the Czech Republic, where a similar scheme is in place, only 2 percent of all electronic services users have electronic signatures.

However, Merva noted that the Tax Directorate offers its clients everything the current Act on Electronic Signatures allows.

"An amendment to the Act encouraging such communication and not discouraging it, like it is now, would definitely be helpful. Of course, we will be improving this system so that we will bring the users as much convenience as possible," added Merva.

He went on to mention that clients should be able to access and check their payment balance with the tax office by the end of the year. They will be able to find out if they have paid too much tax or are in arrears and access all their tax office records.

The Tax Directorate expects that despite the shortcomings interest in submitting tax returns via the Internet will be high.

Merva concluded: "Social insurer Sociálna poisťovňa was a pioneer in Slovakia. It started the system of electronic communication outside the Act on Electronic Signatures and now 60 percent of its clients use the electronic form.

"We expect a similar share of electronic clients in the Tax Directorate. We are registering great interest even now but as everything is new, even this service must wait until it is fully operational. We believe that we will reach the same numbers as Sociálna poisťovňa by the end of the year. We have the same clients and very similar systems," Merva said.

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