Antipathy is a qualification that we often use for people. The question, now, is can organizations be unfriendly? This question is beginning to be very specific to or addressed to the Public Administration, which, surprisingly, has become unsympathetic. Citizens stop perceiving it as an agent at their service to constitute an obstacle to the recognition of services, the granting of benefits or, in general, compliance with legal obligations. The relationship with the Administration has been presented, in recent times, as a barrier rather than as an element of support or guarantee for the realization of rights.
This evolution has been, especially, visible in the previous appointment that began as a benefit to avoid queues at the service offices and has ended up being an obvious barrier that, every day, it costs more to jump.
In this same scheme, doubts have been raised as to whether it is possible to force administrators –to use classical terminology- or citizens to enter into a mandatory administrative relationship.
The rules of administrative procedure (Law 39/2015, of October 1, on Common Administrative Procedure -art. 14-) show citizens (as opposed to legal persons and professionals) the freedom to choose the form of relationship. This form can be, therefore, electronic or traditional based on paper. Additionally, it is a free and revocable choice so that the interested party can “change his mind” as many times as he wants throughout an administrative procedure.
It is true, however, that the common rules of procedure left a gap for the specialty and, within it, especially for the regulation of tax procedures. The crack became a chasm and the citizens ended up being forced into the electronic relationship. Personal income tax returns are, by virtue of this, mandatory to submit electronically because the specific regulations subverted the common framework and this form of relationship became mandatory.
The electronic relationship is undoubtedly the future. The immediate future will be electronic, but, currently, electronics form a barrier that is not within the reach of all citizens. There remain analog or grassroots citizens who will give way to new generations in which it is equated with the history of civilization. But that looming moment has not yet arrived.
The Supreme Court has just reconverted the situation. The STS of July 11, 2023 establishes that the legal framework of the obligatory nature of the electronic relationship with the Administration has sufficient legal consistency to form an obligation of general scope.
The Supreme Court thus places a depth mine in the management of the Tax Administration. Actually, the Tax Administration is one of the few sectors of the Administration in permanent innovation and continuous change. Its modernity is evident, its projection is relevant and relations with it are often among the least complicated. It is true, however, that this halo of modernity is very much founded on a relational framework in which there is a large or sufficient presence of third parties that help to substantiate obligations.
It is probable, however, that this capacity for modernization and the presence of specialized third parties have not made it possible to notice the scope of the generalization of the electronic relationship and the obligation to submit tax documents electronically.
The position of the Supreme Court is that the Tax Administration cannot continue to maintain the policy of general obligation and, above all, the one that includes citizens. Citizens must maintain their relationship capacity in the manner considered most appropriate to the exercise of their interests.
The warning of the Supreme Court should make us reflect, as we said at the beginning, about the speed of some techniques and some requirements. The obligatory presentation of declarations, for natural persons, lacks legal coverage and scheme of organization of the obligation.
This comprehension forced by the Supreme Court will make compliance with formal obligations less unpleasant. Is it possible to recover empathy in relations with the Administration?