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Lydia Sauti Phiri
(Malawi)

LLM in International and Comparative Law, TCD

My long-term goal is to lead one of the core divisions of the Revenue Authority, or even the Authority itself. With the knowledge and skills gained during my LLM, I will stand out in my work and establish myself as a tax administrator with the necessary expertise to lead.

I am a Legal Practitioner, Legal Counsel and appointed Public Prosecutor for the Malawi Revenue Authority. My job involves formulation of tax policies, drafting of tax laws, as well as litigation of cases of tax fraud, tax evasion, smuggling and other commercial and labour matters. I am also a legal advisor to the Revenue Authority.  

My primary interest lies in tax administration. The LLM in International and Comparative Law provides a comprehensive programme of study in commercial law, including tax law, with a strong international and comparative focus. It is, therefore, suitable for the development of practical commercial skills, applicable in an international context. The course will enable me to gain requisite knowledge of laws concerning businesses, trade and investment and their relation to tax law. This knowledge is essential in order for me to become a successful tax policy advisor.  

As Trinity promotes independent learning, I have gained excellent research and analytical skills and an increased ability to express myself and my academic ideas. The Revenue Authority faces challenges in defending cases that involve technical tax matters, as well as in the formulation and implementation of laws. A good understanding of tax policies is essential in order to deal with these challenges. The LLM in International and Comparative Law will build on my experience in tax administration and tax law litigation. It will enable me to gain knowledge of the business and tax environment in which multinational corporations operate, understand corporate tax arrangements, the importance of intellectual property rights, web-based business models and the impact of tax havens on revenue. It is an incredible programme from which I can develop practical skills that are relevant to my work.  

Through my work, I have seen an increase in the number of bilateral tax treaties signed between Malawi and its partner countries. The OECD Model Tax Convention on Income and on Capital and the UN Model Double Taxation Convention between Developed and Developing Countries are the main model conventions used in the application of the tax treaties. Commentaries to the provisions of the model conventions have been widely-accepted as a guide to the interpretation and application of the provisions of existing bilateral conventions. However, there has been much academic debate on the use of the commentaries as a tool for treaty interpretation. My dissertation will explore the legal basis for reliance on the commentaries, the challenges arising from the reliance on commentaries and how these commentaries affect the application and efficacy of the double tax avoidance agreements.   

My long-term goal is to lead one of the core divisions of the Revenue Authority, or even the Authority itself. With the knowledge and skills gained during my LLM, I will stand out in my work and establish myself as a tax administrator with the necessary expertise to lead. I would like to see a Malawi that is fiscally independent. The improvement of the private sector is central to achieving sustainable economic growth. As such, a robust and efficient taxation system is critical to foster trade and encourage local and foreign direct investment. Furthermore, compliance amongst taxpayers is highest when they can see taxes working for them, for example through the improvement of health and education systems. Through my work as a public servant, I want to bring about reforms that result in a Government that is transparent and accountable to its people.  

I am still adjusting to living in Ireland. It took me a while to adapt to the differences in weather. Everything seemed expensive, especially the food. On the other hand, I like the diversity in Ireland, I like how the people are accommodating and I am not reminded that I am not home. I like how the city isn’t so artificial; there is a lot of culture to it. I will definitely miss the beautiful landscapes, the cultural experiences and the small things, such as the freedom to go out for a run in the evening and feel safe. I will also miss the relationships I have developed whilst here.