All questions

The courts and tribunals

If no CVA is initiated, or if initiated but a conciliatory solution is not reached, because the collegiate body or the taxpayer rejects it, a formal deficiency assessment is issued and served to the taxpayer. At this point, the taxpayer can accept the tax authorities' position or appeal before the National Tax Court. The taxpayer may also choose to appeal the deficiency assessment before the tax authority itself, but this option is rarely used because the chance that the very same tax authority revokes its prior position is remote. The proceedings before the National Tax Court may take around three years in cases where substantial evidence needs to be produced. During such proceedings, interest keeps accruing but the relevant tax authority cannot claim the payment of the assessed amounts.

The National Tax Court is a body within the Executive Branch composed of accountants and lawyers specialised in tax law. It has four courtrooms devoted to analysing tax cases. Every case is assigned to a courtroom composed of two lawyers and one accountant. The National Tax Court has deep knowledge of the tax field and its decisions are generally very well sustained. Under the TPL, however, the National Tax Court has a strict limit: it cannot declare the unconstitutionality of any law, decree or regulation, unless such unconstitutionality had been declared by the National Supreme Court. Therefore, if a taxpayer invokes the unconstitutionality of a provision in which the tax authorities support their position, the National Tax Court will ignore such discussion and proceed to analyse the rest of the arguments, if any.

The decision of the National Tax Court can be appealed to the Court of Appeals. Should the taxpayer not pay the assessed liability after the unfavourable decision of the National Tax Court, except amounts corresponding to fines, the tax authority will likely initiate judicial proceedings to collect the amount involved. Thus, the obligation to pay the assessed amounts arises once the National Tax Court issues its decision, and only in case such a decision was in favour of the tax authority.

Under the TPL, the appeal to the Court of Appeals can only be based on legal arguments but not on the analysis of the facts and circumstances surrounding the case, as evaluated by the National Tax Court. Thus, the appeal before the Court of Appeals is described as a 'limited appeal and review remedy',5 although the Court of Appeals can decide to ignore such limitation in case of flagrant violation of the procedures before the National Tax Court, or if it believes that the facts were mistakenly evaluated by such court.

Whatever the resolution of the Court of Appeals is, it can be appealed to the Supreme Court of Justice to the extent certain requirements are met.

As can be seen, there are several instances in which the position of the tax authorities referred to a deficiency in the payment of taxes and the fines applied, if any, can be reviewed. However, an assessment procedure before the tax authorities might take one or two years. In addition, although it would strongly depend on the case at stake, to obtain a decision from the Federal Tax Court might take between three and four years, a decision from the Court of Appeals one or two additional years, and a final judgment from the Supreme Court an additional year or two. As a consequence, the whole process might take between six and ten years. In a context of high inflation, as was the case in Argentina during recent years, this might be an incentive to litigate because there is no requirement to pay the amounts involved during the process, although they can be judicially claimed, except for the fines, once the Federal Tax Court issued its decision. It is true that the applicable interest rate is high, but it is also true that from time to time a general amnesty regime is enacted, allowing payment of tax debts with partial or total forgiveness of interest, forgiveness of fines and criminal charges, if any, even if the case is being discussed before any of the referred courts.