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Lenka Kočerová | June 4, 2024

Beware of transferring data box access data to a third party

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In its recent judgment No. 4 Afs 274/2023-27 of 6 May 2024, the Supreme Administrative Court (hereinafter the “SAC”) commented on the consequences of entrusting a third party with access to a data box without controlling its activities and what documents are being delivered to the data box.

Factual circumstances of the case

The complainant sought to reopen the VAT assessment proceedings terminated by a payment assessment.

The essence was that the complainant had granted access to her data mailbox to her former payroll accountant, who became an authorised person pursuant to Article 8(6)(b) of Act No 300/2008 Coll., on electronic transactions and authorised document conversion. However, the authorized person did not inform her about the documents delivered to the data box (in this case in the context of the tax proceedings leading to the VAT assessment) and she herself communicated with the tax administrator partially, but without appropriate authorization to represent her in the tax proceedings and without the complainant’s knowledge. The complainant argued that she could not provide the documents requested by the tax administrator because she was unaware of the notices. She relied on the professional approach of her former accountant, against whom she subsequently filed a criminal complaint. According to the complainant, the conditions for reopening the proceedings as defined in Section 117(1)(a) of the Tax Code have been met, i.e. new facts or evidence have come to light, which could not have been brought to light earlier in the proceedings without the fault of the recipient of the decision or the tax administrator and could have had a significant impact on the verdict of the decision.

The Municipal Court in Prague concluded that if the complainant entrusted all control over her data mailbox to a third party without setting up any control mechanism, then the complainant’s ignorance of the ongoing tax proceedings was the result of her own negligence.

It referred to the previous case law of the Supreme Administrative Court[1], according to which: “if the entitled person decides to provide his or her access data to another, he or she bears the full risks associated with this. In principle, it is irrelevant for public authorities how the relationship between the entitled person and the person, to whom he or she has provided the access data, is regulated, how the transmission of mail will take place, etc. Through the prism of the Electronic Acts Act, a data message will be regarded as delivered whenever the data box is accessed through the access data of the entitled person. With a certain degree of simplification, handing over access data can be understood as handing over one’s own virtual identity, which can have serious consequences.”

The SAC upheld the legal opinion of the Municipal Court. According to the SAC, it was crucial that:

  • the complainant granted the former accountant access to her data mailbox, giving her essentially full access to her virtual identity;
  • the complainant completely resigned on checking the contents of her data box;
  • and thus, it was only as a result of her own incaution that the complainant did not become aware of the tax administrator’s requests to submit tax-relevant documents, which she undoubtedly possessed at the relevant time.

The Supreme Administrative Court concluded that the conditions for the reopening of the proceedings were not met in the present case, as the complainant had not established any control mechanisms in order to fulfil her own tax obligations and had relied solely on her former accountant, who had not informed her of the documents delivered to her and had not been sufficiently active in the tax proceedings. In view of the above, according to the SAC, it was irrelevant that the payroll accountant was not authorized to communicate with the tax administrator.

[1] Judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 26 August 2015, No. 3 Ads 21/2015 - 47