News Column

EU Seeks to Stem Millions of Euros Lost to Tax Evasion

Dec. 6, 2012

Businesses in the European Union will find it harder to avoid paying taxes under new proposals by the bloc's executive, which wants to crack down on tax evasion at a time when member states are trimming spending to tackle funding shortfalls.

Around 1 trillion euros (1.3 trillion dollars) are lost annually in the EU due to tax evasion, according to EU Tax Commissioner Algirdas Semeta.

"Not only is this is a scandalous loss of much-needed revenue, it is also a threat to fair taxation," Semeta said. "In a single market, within a globalised economy, national mismatches and loopholes become the playthings of those that seek to escape taxation."

The European Commission called on member states to blacklist countries considered tax havens, adding to the global criteria of transparency and information exchange a third benchmark, on fair competition - or whether countries grant unfair tax benefits.

It also called on member states to use existing and new measures to cut down on "aggressive tax planning" in which companies exploit legal technicalities to avoid paying taxes.

BusinessEurope, the European confederation of employers, welcomed the commission's objectives, but also called for simpler tax regimes within the EU.

"Greater ambition is required to remove the numerous cross-border tax obstacles in Europe that remain a barrier to allowing growth-enhancing trade across the single market," BusinessEurope wrote in a statement.

Semeta said the commission had also launched infringement proceedings against Luxembourg, over a reduced sales tax on digital books which benefits online retailer Amazon, which has a base in the principality.

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Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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