EU Parliament approves Panama Papers committee recommendations
Open registers of beneficial owners, effective whistle-blower protection and rules for intermediaries are a must to fight tax evasion, say MEPs.
Panama Papers | Photo credit: Press Association
The measures are among 211 recommendations made by Parliament’s special inquiry committee into money laundering, tax avoidance and evasion (PANA).
In a vote, they were backed by MEPs in Strasbourg by 492 votes to 50 with 136 abstentions.
The vote wraps up 18 months’ work by the special committee, set up in June 2015 in the wake of the Panama Papers revelations, with the aim of stamping out the practices revealed by the leaked documents.
Major recommendations made by the committee include regularly updated, standardised, interconnected and publicly accessible beneficial ownership registers of companies, foundations, trusts and similar legal arrangements; new rules to regulate intermediaries, such as lawyers and accountants, who aid aggressive tax planning, plus incentives to refrain from engaging in tax evasion and tax avoidance; a common international definition of what constitutes an offshore financial centre, tax haven, secrecy haven, non-cooperative tax jurisdiction and high-risk country; tools to support whistle-blowers to ensure that they are given effective protection and adequate financial assistance, and dissuasive penalties at both EU and national levels against banks and intermediaries that are knowingly, wilfully and systematically involved in illegal tax or money laundering schemes; a permanent committee of inquiry on the model of the US Congress.
The co-rapporteur on the dossier, Danish Socialist MEP Jeppe Kofod, said, “We need a paradigm shift in European tax policy, to combat tax havens, tax avoidance and tax evasion. That is abundantly clear to me after having spent 18 months poring over secret Council documents.”
Kofod’s joint rapporteur Petr Ježek, a Czech ALDE group member, said, “The PANA committee investigations built on the journalists’ revelations with the aim of keeping up momentum, scrutinising relevant EU legislation and its implementation and coming up with credible recommendations on how to tackle money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion.
“We have reached these goals. In the coming months, it will be crucial to maintain pressure as regards implementation of the recommendations and additional pressure on those governments which are still not fighting the good fight.”
EPP group shadow rapporteur on the file Luděk Niedermayer said, “The fight against tax evasion, tax crime and tax avoidance must be one of the EU’s key economic tasks. They harm fair competition, undermine the confidence of citizens and have a serious impact on tax and fiscal policies.”
Greens/EFA group shadow rapporteur Molly Scott Cato said, “While the Commission needs to be bolder, the real enemy of tax justice in Europe has been the prime ministers and presidents of EU governments. They have treated the demands of their citizens with contempt, again demonstrated by their failure to be present in the Parliamentary debate yesterday.
“This is an insult not only to the Parliament but also to commissioner Moscovici and to president Juncker who made tackling tax avoidance a key priority for his term of office. If member state governments continue to block progress on key tax legislation then the Commission should force their hand and present legislative tax proposals under co-decision in 2018.”
The report and recommendations will now be passed on to Council and Commission for their consideration.
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