Parliament not convinced by lacklustre commission EU tax proposals

The European commission has mostly failed to impress MEPs with its new tax action plan.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

18 Jun 2015

Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker had vowed to make fighting tax evasion a priority during his mandate, and his team has now taken the first steps to follow through on this promise.

European economic and financial affairs, taxation and customs commissioner Pierre Moscovici unveiled an action plan this week aimed at stopping companies from escaping tax.

The commission will relaunch its common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB) and present new proposals next year - its original plans have been stalled in negotiations since 2011. 


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It is a single set of rules for cross-border companies to calculate their taxable profits within the EU. This way, they do not have to deal with individual national systems - which often provide them loopholes and facilitate tax evasion.

However, the CCCTB will be implemented step-by-step, with the commission insisting that this will make it easier for member states to reach an agreement. Therefore, consolidation - whereby companies operating cross-border only need to file one tax return - will be postponed until the common base is established.

The commission will also introduce measures to improve tax transparency between member states and third countries, stricter rules for preferential tax regimes and improve the transfer pricing system - the setting of the price for goods sold between related entities of a company.

European People Party (EPP) group spokesperson on parliament's special tax committee Burkhard Balz welcomed the proposals, saying, "the only way to stop tax avoidance and aggressive tax planning by some companies is joint action by all member states. The mismatches between 28 different tax systems create loopholes".

He urged policymakers to focus on helping small businesses, as "SMEs do not have the resources to set up complicated tax planning schemes. De facto only big multinational companies can profit from the mismatches between national systems. The new tax action plan must end this discrimination against SMEs".

Parliament's Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) had a slightly more mixed reaction.

Special tax committee co-rapporteur Elisa Ferreira said, "the commission has done a fine job in proposing this plan, but now we need results. These proposals are not enough, and must therefore trigger a corresponding and determined political action and the level of the council of ministers".

"The council cannot hide behind the unanimity rule to perpetuate a situation of privilege in some countries", she warned.

Over to the left, MEPs were more critical of the commission's proposal. Greens/European Free Alliance (EFA) group co-chair Philippe Lamberts said, "we welcome that the commission has revived discussions on a CCCTB. However, we know that the countries that benefit most from the absence of a mandatory CCCTB, including Ireland and the UK, are doing their best to sap the commission's resolve."

"Without consolidation, which the commission proposes to put off till the cows come home, the end of corporate tax dodging is inevitably also delayed. In order to be effective, a consolidated base must be accompanied by a minimum rate", he underlined.

And Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) shadow rapporteur on parliament's special tax committee Fabio De Masi was especially unimpressed, calling the proposals "highly insufficient. Instead of taking advantage of public outrage follow 'LuxLeaks', the can is further kicked down the road. At the same time, European citizens keep losing up to one trillion euros a year through tax avoidance and tax evasion".

He added, "specific proposals are only to be made within 18 months and there is no reason to believe that reluctant member states will become more cooperative at a future point when there will be even less public attention to the issue".

The European commission had previously presented a tax transparency package, which member states hope to adopt by the end of the year.

 

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