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Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative Tax Dispute Resolution - A new platform to settle tax disputes efficiently

The Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA) has set up an Alternative Tax Dispute Resolution (ATDR) Panel to resolve tax disputes through a streamlined process that is efficient and cost effective. The ATDR Panel will consider applications for review made by any person satisfying the conditions applicable for review who has been assessed to tax under section 129 of the Income Tax Act and/or section 37 of the VAT Act and has either objected to the assessment or lodged representations at the Assessment Review Committee (ARC) or appealed at the Supreme Court or Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.


Under the ATDR, the parties to the tax dispute agree to bring the ATDR Panel as a third party to determine the dispute. The ATDR Panel is an independent panel comprising of a Director of the MRA as Chairperson, a Senior Officer of the MRA designated by the Director-General and a Law Practitioner appointed by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development. To ensure the independence of the ATDR Panel, its members must not have been involved in the case brought before them and are replaceable as and when required.


Conditions applicable for review under ATDR

  1. The amount of tax payable under dispute should exceed Rs 10 million;
  2. The applicant should not have been convicted of an offence or is not the subject matter of an enquiry relating to trafficking of dangerous drugs under the Dangerous Drugs Act, money laundering under the Financial Intelligence and Anti-Money Laundering Act, financing of terrorism under the Prevention of Terrorism Act or corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act; and
  3. The grounds of dissatisfaction specified in the application should not be different from those in the notice of objection or appeal.

Procedures

An application for ATDR must be made to the Secretariat of the ATDR Panel in a prescribed form (available on the website of the MRA). The application will be referred to the ATDR Panel within one month of receipt. The applicant may be requested to call before the Panel and submit any information or particulars relevant to the application for review.


Determination by the ATDR Panel

The applicant will be informed about the decision of the ATDR Panel within 6 months from the date he is informed that his application for review has been referred to the ATDR Panel. The decision of the ATDR Panel will not serve as a precedent or reference for other cases. The MRA may amend or maintain the assessment in conformity with the decision of the ATDR Panel.

Where there is an agreement between the MRA and the applicant, the agreement must:

  1. cover all items in dispute;
  2. be final and binding on both the applicant and the MRA; and
  3. include the terms and conditions for the settlement of the tax liability.

Following the agreement with the MRA, the applicant must withdraw his objection, representations or appeal as the case may be.  A copy of the Agreement must be filed at the ARC, Supreme Court or Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, whichever is applicable.

In the event the applicant is not agreeable to the decision of the ATDR Panel, he must inform the ATDR Panel within one month of the date he is informed of its decision and he may proceed with his objection or appeal. The objection will be determined within 4 months as from the date the MRA is so informed.


Withdrawal of case from ATDR Panel

An applicant may, at any stage, withdraw an application pending before the ATDR Panel and proceed with his objection/appeal at the ARC, Supreme Court or Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, whichever is applicable to his case. The objection will be determined within 4 months as from the date he withdraws his case from the Panel.


Conclusion

The ATDR Panel will work with taxpayers to explore ways of resolving tax disputes and will give consideration to both the legal and commercial aspect of the dispute together with the grievances of the taxpayer before reaching a decision. Undoubtedly, the ATDR will be a welcome option for long running disputes that can be resolved in a maximum period of 6 months, achieving time and cost savings for both the taxpayer and the MRA without adversely impacting the timetable for any ongoing litigation (if an agreement cannot be reached).