Fair taxation is a priority for the European Parliament. Tax policy, including the fight against tax fraud, has become a hot topic over the past decade due to journalistic investigations such as LuxLeaks, the Panama Papers, Football Leaks, Bahamas Leaks and the Paradise Papers, which revealed tax leaks and tax havens. They led to increasing unhappiness about damaging tax practices, particularly after the recession and the resulting budget constraints. Unpaid taxes result in smaller budgets both nationally and at EU level.
Tax policy has remained EU countries’ own responsibility since the EU’s beginning, but the fight against tax fraud is shared by EU countries and the EU.
Taxation a priority for the European Parliament
Since September 2020, the Parliament has had a permanent sub-committee on tax matters. The committee was established to assist the economic and monetary affairs committee with taxation issues and deals with the fight against tax fraud, tax evasion and tax avoidance, as well as financial transparency in taxation.
During the 2014-19 parliamentary term, Parliament set up temporary special committees, including a special committee on financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance and an inquiry committee Inquiry to investigate alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application of EU law in relation to money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion. These committees identified a number of flaws in tax provisions.
EU tax measures
Some of the main legislative proposals in recent years regarding tax relate to the exchange of information through the Directive on Administrative Cooperation, which has been amended many times to provide:
- Automatic exchange of information relating to financial accounts where a taxpayer is active in another country than the country of residence
- Exchange of tax rulings between member states to disclose to other EU countries and the European Commission, for example “tax planning schemes” offered to specific companies
- Country-by-country information provided by large multinational enterprises and shared between EU countries to prevent multinationals that are active in different countries from engaging in aggressive tax-planning practices not available for domestic companies
- Money laundering information
Other proposals relate to corporate taxation and tax avoidance for example:
- The common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB), which addresses the tax obstacles that arise from different national tax systems for companies that operate in the internal market in order to avoid the risks of double taxation or aggressive tax planning
- Corporate taxation of a significant digital presence to allow members states to tax profits made in their territory, even if a company is not physically present there
- A common system for a digital services tax, a tax on revenues stemming from for example the transmission of data collected about users on digital interfaces
In addition, there have been many proposals to update the VAT framework. The tax matters subcommittee is currently working on a report on how to create a new basis for taxing the profits of digital companies in countries where they operate, even when they do not have a physical presence.
The report will set out Parliament’s views ahead of the final global negotiations at the OECD, which are expected to be finalised by mid-2021. By June at the latest, the Commission is also expected to put forward a proposal on a digital levy as part of reforming the EU’s system of own resources and financing the economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic.
About the infographics
Our infographic at the top shows the income from direct and indirect taxes for each EU country as well as total tax revenue as a percentage of the gross domestic product. The latter is divided between taxes on capital, consumption and labour. In addition, our map shows how wealthy countries are.