ECON Committee of the European Parliament has held an online hearing with Commissioner Gentiloni and Commission Vice-President Dombrovskis to discuss the EU’s response to the corona crisis.
At the hearing, several MEPs asked the Commission to elaborate on their efforts to fight against tax avoidance and evasion, confirming that the ongoing corona crisis has not removed tax from the top of the European Parliament’s agenda – perhaps even to the contrary.
For example, Sven Giegold (Greens-EFA/Germany) and Eero Heinaluoma (S&D/Finland) underlined that the corona context reinforces the need to fight against tax avoidance and evasion. Evelyn Regner (S&D/Austria) questioned state support to businesses that are based in ‘tax havens’ and called for public CBCR.
In his reply, Commissioner Gentiloni emphasised that taxation remains a priority for the Commission, and that Commission measures should be expected in June. For now the Action Plan on the fight against tax evasion is scheduled for 10 June, the Communication on business taxation for the 21st century for 24 June and a newly announced Communication on tax good governance coming in “summer”. Read more
The European Commission is reportedly considering deferring the reporting obligations of the tax intermediaries Directive (DAC 6), in order to provide relief for concerned entities in times of corona.
However, any such “adjustment” would still oblige concerned entities to report for the alleviation period, and in any case any tax arrangements set up on or after 25 June 2018 and that are reportable under DAC 6’s so-called hallmarks will have to be disclosed to the tax authorities.
Earlier in April, 10 industry associations wrote a letter to the European Commission asking for a deferral to DAC 6 obligations due to the corona virus context.
Replying to a question from Accountancy Europe, the European Commission’s DG TAXUD announced on 30 April its intention to publish a new Communication on tax good governance “in the summer”. This Communication would complement the already announced Action Plan on tax fraud, and new measures on tax administrative cooperation (DAC 7) that would bring data from online platforms into the realm of exchange of information. Both initiatives are currently scheduled for 10 June.
For the time being, there are no further details announced on the contents of the tax good governance Communication. However, this may relate to the Commission’s earlier announcement on launching an External Strategy on taxation. Read more
MEPs across political Groups who worked on the public country by country reporting (CBCR) file in the European Parliament have sent a letter to EU Ministers responsible for the competitiveness Council, calling for tax transparency. In their letter, the MEPs argue that any EU corona aid granted to businesses should be tied to requirements for the businesses to do public CBCR. Read more
Angela Merkel has provided further details on the upcoming German Council Presidency in a recent webcast.
As was to be expected, Germany will focus on economic recovery from the corona crisis. Other areas of priority include climate and environment, and reforming the European health system.
Interestingly, Merkel also confirmed that taxation will be among the priorities. She mentioned, specifically, the financial transaction tax (FTT), minimum taxation and a common carbon emissions tax for maritime and aviation sectors.
Merkel’s prioritisation of FTT, minimum taxes and carbon taxes were further confirmed by Germany’s finance minister Olaf Scholz
And speaking of FTT, Olaf Scholz sent a letter in early-April to Commissioner Gentiloni, asking whether European countries that already have a national FTT but are not part of the 10 enhanced cooperating countries working on the Commission proposal, could also join the EU FTT if it is agreed. Examples of such countries include Ireland, Finland and Poland.
Scholz also wrote in his letter to the Commissioner that he hopes that an agreement will be finalised “in the near future”. The negotiations have been advancing somewhat. In a recent compromise text, Germany proposed to exempt pension funds from FTT’s scope, in an appeasement to Belgium and Slovakia. At the same time, Austria has threatened to leave the negotiations if the FTT does not target speculative activities.
Speaking at a webinar on tax measures to tackle corona, organised by Jericho Chambers, OECD’s Pascal Saint-Amans re-emphasised that the OECD remains on track to finalise an agreement on international tax reform – covering digital activities and minimum taxation – by the end of this year. He also underlined that the file remains a priority for the G20 as well.
A growing number of EU countries plan to tie state aid to businesses suffering from the corona crisis to good tax behaviour. These include at least Denmark, Poland, France, Belgium and Italy.
Denmark, for example, would like to ban from corona aid any businesses registered in jurisdictions that feature in the EU’s list of non-cooperative jurisdictions. Poland has called for digital and carbon taxes, as well as addressing the question of “tax havens”, as solutions to raise funds for corona recovery. And France, for its part, is on the Danish lines supporting barring state aid to businesses in EU blacklisted jurisdictions, as well businesses that pay dividends to shareholders or want to buy back their own shares.This curated content was brought to you by Johan Barros, Accountancy Europe policy manager since 2015. You can send him tips by email, follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.