Some time ago we had the honor to interview Ricardo Garcia Anton from the FIT. A lot of Students already know him from the studytrip to Brazil. We asked Ricardo about his research and his personal life and what he was like as a student.
Could you tell us something about what you’re are working on these days?
I’m working on the concept of multilateralism; what does it mean, but also how can we apply multilateral solutions in international taxation. Also on the deeper questions such as; ‘are we really In a multilateral scenario or are we still in a bilateral setting?’ International Taxation has traditionally been bilateral. . Now with a multilateral treaty in force there are many possibilities to achieve global tax fairness, but also many interpretive holes. I think this is still an interesting line of research. Another line of research I am conducting right now is on how to use legal concepts to complex economic phenomenon like transfer Pricing. Assessing how law applies to the phenomenon of group of companies would overcome the traditional shortcomings of the arm´s length price and better allocate tax income in a fair way.
Thank you Ricardo, your research was very interesting to read! Do you think that how arm’s length is organised right now is creating unfair situations?
Yes I do think so at the moment, also considering the Corona crisis. It’s a very good question and I’ll try to summarize with an easy example. low-risk distributors traditionally receive a low but stable remuneration. . These low risk distributors have always profit. Now with the COVID-crisis, the issue is that these low-risk companies want to assume the losses that are accounted in the group. If they can assume the losses of the group, Why not increasing their profits? Do we really believe that it is fair to allocate to them only this low remuneration when they benefit from being part of the group? The groups work as an economic unity. We have to make Transfer Pricing more responsive to these group dynamics.
Do you see this as a consequence of the ‘Arm’s length’ principle or the strategy of the group itself?
Yes, but is it a consequence of the ‘arm’s length? It is an issue that the ‘arm’s length’ doesn’t see the group as an unity.
So the Corona crisis has shown the issues with the ‘arm’s length’ principle?
Yes, but also issues in treaties arise. There are new publications on how the mobility of people could affect treaties issues. The OECD has published guidelines in this regard.. At the same time the European Union has revived the idea of European taxes. We are trying to think of potential new taxes. In a nutshell if you put all the questions together, the Corona crisis has been an excellent trigger for change. But let’s see if these changes take place, but it also up to you! You are 20 years younger than me!
Recently, also with Pillar II, countries have not always agreed. Do you think the COVID-19 crisis will have a positive effect on the willingness to work together more?
For me it is a recurring problem that is very difficult to predict what’s going to happen. The situation has always been hard for harmonisation. I am not so convinced that the changes will take place. It’s up to us to find solutions. The Unified approach is also not a simple solution. We are now seeing again the same problem we saw at the beginning of international taxation. Maybe we need to look back more to the Past to see the problems.
Do you think that the European Union might be the first step towards a big organised taxation or change?
Yeah I think there is a real need for an European Taxation. You cannot have a political organisation without taxes. We have to step in here to create and enhance European citizenship. I wrote a paper on this idea of European citizenship as the basis of European taxes. In the history of the Union we are at a crucial point now. The problems with Multinationals are global, it doesn’t make sense to think in boundaries. (a discussion follows between the interviewers and the interviewee…)
Of course we would like to know a bit more about you as well. You are quite well known in the Smeetskring circles! Let’s start with the most basic question: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in the south of Spain, in Seville. I was a lawyer for 7 years in Spain, in Madrid. Then I decided to start my academic career and in started my PhD in Florence for 4 years. When I finished my PhD I got the opportunity to join the IBFD in Amsterdam. Once you are in the Netherlands you get into contact with people in the field and I got in contact with the Fiscal Institute in Tilburg. This is what I dreamed about; I love to teach!, the university is the perfect place to teach, assist students. I also like the colleagues; we exchange a lot of ideas. On the FIT we also have FIT-lunches. I miss walking through the corridors and having discussion with people because of Corona. This is my fifth year in the Netherlands. I try to improve my Dutch. So I think during the Studiereis…..misschien….volgende jaar.
(Yosje tells Ricardo she actually got intimidated how fast he learns Dutch)
Ahh I go to the Cinema and theatres a lot, it helps with the development of the language. The accents are different. I live in Amsterdam, but Brabants is different, I am getting used to it!
Did you know as a student you wanted to pursue the academic life?
I always had this in mind, but also when I finished my degree it was also the booming economic years and there were a lot of opportunities in the big firms and big four. After 7 years I decided I had enough. I always wanted to write a PhD; it was also in my DNA Do you think most academics already know this from the beginning? No, I think this is something you need to discover yourself. If you like to sit down and open your computer and you love WORD. Not everyone loves it, haha. Writing is a tough job; you need to read, create from scratch. It is always challenging. It is up to everybody! Even I recommend to start in the practice and then if you still want it: go for it!
Some Ricardo-wisdom right there!
It’s also the time we live in. My parents would start a job and work there for 30 years. Right now, this is not the case anymore.
Did you go to Spain during the crisis?
No I didn’t travel, I stayed home during the lockdown. Of course the technology helps a lot to keep in touch with the family! Also my brother lives in Amsterdam, he moved 3 years ago. I only have one brother, so it was easy to keep the family together! So getting to your student-life. What kind of student were you; did you party a lot, or were you a bookworm? No, I think that you need to find a balance. I was very balanced in my life. The secret was to study every day. When you are a student you also need to enjoy and party, read books, watch movies, etc.. University times are fantastic to get a picture what you want to do in life. All the things are relevant. But I partied a lot……..studied a lot; all balanced.
So no crazy hangover stories during lectures?
No because also in Spain, we only have lectures from Monday till Thursday, so it was easy to go out and not having a lecture on Friday haha. Are there any elements of culture that the Netherlands misses or other cultures miss? I really like the Dutch straightforwardness. People are quite direct, I like it. I think that the Netherlands is a very open country, I feel at home. Dutch people have a good sense of humour. I have a friend who used to live in the Netherlands and has moved to Switzerland. He misses the Dutch sense of humour, he doesn’t understand the Swiss sense of humour. Directness is way more positive than the circle-behaviour in Spain. I don’t have the feeling the Dutch are rude at all.
So……is there something people should know about you? Is there something they need to know about you before they meet you? Maybe a favourite drink, etc..?
No (laughing), I think with the Studiereis we enjoyed the local drink a lot … (Renske starts laughing). We definitely did our best to try all the local products. It worked! You need to think as a local. I also like from the Netherlands that society is not very hierarchical here. I like the relations with the students a lot. Its different in Latin countries. You guys don’t use the ‘’U’’ a lot, right? In France and Spain everyone is really cautious.
So after complimenting our culture, what do you dislike the most of the Netherlands?
Ahhh I don’t know (laughing). (In the meantime the interviewers persuade Ricardo to pick something). Hahaha, the weather IS nice. If I have to say something it might be the weather or the food. Normally I would love to go to Spain every three months, although now in Seville (august) It is 44 degrees, really unbearable.
This whole situation has influenced the whole world and it might not be over soon. Has this pandemic changed your view on working internationally?
I am very happy to settle down in the Netherlands. With the communication it is really easy to work from home. Travelling to Spain is easy as well, except for Corona. In academia now we will also get more e-working days, so we need to travel less. This is also better for the environment, because we are travelling a lot normally. We had a conference this year with over 200 attendees over ZOOM and it worked very well. It was really successful. This is a good example how things can be done online. We had people from all over; Australia, Peru, etc.
Do you think this crises will spark many changes in the fiscal world?
We already had the financial crisis in 2010 and not many things have changed since that or enforced. It Is difficult to predict revolutions. This is more a crisis of uncertainty. People don’t know what will happen. It is true that this crisis is crucial; we are more vulnerable than we thought. We were consuming and consuming. Inequality is growing, which has become even more clear in the pandemic. COVID has put everything on the table. Maybe I’m more pessimistic. Interesting things are happening soon.
Good point there. Do you think this pandemic will make Trump lose the election?
Oh, I hope so (laughing). USA is always a key actor in global politics.
This is on record now.
I think the most important question of all that everyone in the Smeetskring wants to know is: are you going to apply for another Study trip?
Always! Let’s see! I really enjoyed the experience, it was also good for my Dutch. I don’t make the decision on who goes, a lot of people from the FIT are also interested. I’m always up for these trips! The program was well-made in Brazil. And the drinks were very nice! Very nice balance. I was very happy to join.
Thank you for joining Ricardo and all your honest answers.
Sadly we can’t enjoy a couple of beers in Esplanade!