Tomi Viitala: I research subjects that have practical significance and are interesting to various audiences
Assistant Professor Tomi Viitala, what do you research and why?
Currently, my research topics are related to how EU law affects investment taxation. Right now, my research is focused on the so-called share savings account, which we’ll also have in Finland at the beginning of next year. The free movement of capital under EU law requires that tax incentives are not only planned for domestic situations, but that international situations are also taken into account. This is a problem for legislators since international taxation matters are often difficult.
I try to choose research topics that have practical significance and that various stakeholder groups find interesting. Many politicians and other decision-makers have also been interested in my research topic, so research can also have a social impact.
How did you become an Assistant Professor of Tax Law?
Partly by chance and partly through persistent work. I defended my doctoral thesis at the Turku School of Economics in 2004, and after that I worked over 10 years as a tax expert for various employers such as EY, the Central Chamber of Commerce of Finland and the Ministry of Finance. My goal has been to get practical experience in business and international taxation that's as versatile as possible. I have also been writing and teaching constantly alongside my career.
When the Assistant Professor position at the Aalto University School of Business become available in 2015, I decided to see if this kind of experience could get me selected, and it seems that it could. This path turned out well for me since practical experience has proved to be very useful in research and teaching.
What have been the highlights of your career so far?
I try to avoid highlights and aim for steady improvement, instead. I find it suits my personality; I enjoy ultrarunning and other tests of perseverance. My greatest moments are when colleagues, customers or students tell me that I have managed to make an impact with my example.
Which qualities are the most important for you to succeed in your work?
Different qualities are emphasised in research and teaching. Research requires a long-term approach and an ability to create networks in order to get enough visibility. On the other hand, for teaching it is important to be able to present things in an interesting manner to get students excited. The best feedback for me has been when someone becomes so excited about taxation during my lectures that they take up taxation as a career. My service promise to the students is that I only teach things in my courses that bring added value to the careers of those graduating from the School of Business.
What do you expect from the future?
I am currently on a research visit to Amsterdam, the undisputed capital of international tax research. This has been such a great experience that I hope to have more similar ones in the future.
Tomi Viitala is following the ongoing government programme negotiations with interest; research data on tax law would surely be useful during these negotiations.
He is also one of the educators in Aalto EE's International Corporate Taxation Management course (held in Finnish) in September where participants will get to hear about interesting trends in international taxation.