By: Pär Björklund, Programme Manager, Swedish Tax Agency.
After two years of travel restrictions, 42 delegates from the International Capability Building Programme (ICBP) were finally able to visit the Swedish Tax Agency (STA), in the outskirts of the Swedish Capital of Stockholm.
The purpose of the Sweden week was to continue to provide knowledge and insights on Voluntary Compliance strategies, theories and research on factors that influence Voluntary Compliance, as well as the many actions that fiscal administrations can take to increase trust in the (tax) administration, thus strengthening Voluntary Compliance among citizens and businesses.
The focus of the visit was to show participants elements of the STA's approach to Voluntary Compliance, that are better experienced and seen, than presented.
The visit was very rewarding both for the STA staff and the visiting delegates. Some of the take-aways from the week were:
- The culture within the STA made quite an impression with delegates: They noted that all STA staff they met, regardless of position in the organisation, conveyed a genuine want to build trust with the taxpayer. Another aspect that made an impression was the non-hierarchical structure within the STA. This is reflected in how the STA Office is built and when taking a tour of the office, the delegates were surprised to see that our Director General sits in an open space like everyone else.
- Strategy focusing on increasing trust vs. maximising revenue in the short term: The delegates got insights and reflected on why having a governance and performance management (from both the Ministry of Finance and within the Tax Agency), that focuses on building trust rather than on hard revenue targets has been successful. In the Swedish Tax Agency, this transformation and shift in mindset took several decades and started with conversations similar to the ones the teams had during their stay in Sweden.
- Benchmarking: We were very happy to see the level of engagement from country teams and how they purposefully took the opportunity to benchmark with both the Swedish colleagues and the other country teams. We hope that the contacts taken between the delegates during the week will result in many fruitful interactions during the years to come.
The visit left both delegates and Swedish colleagues with a lot of insights and food for thought.