Thursday, 11 February 2010

EU tax policy: ECOFIN 19 January 2010

I start by mentioning two interesting documents for those who want to see the big picture of European Union activities in the area of taxation.

Developments 2004-2009

A suitable starting point is the Commission booklet Achievements in the areas of taxation and customs 2004-2009, published 8 February 2010 (75 pages including annexed speeches, from page 20).


From recent developments it is natural to advance to the work programme of the Spanish presidency of the Council of the European Union. The part concerning the ECOFIN Council has a section on the aims regarding tax matters: Taxation: The fight against fraud (pages 5 to 7).


We should then be ready for the Council (Economic and Financial Affairs; ECOFIN) meeting 19 January 2010, which led to the following conclusions on tax issues (document 5400/10; page 7 to 8):


The Council examined a package of measures aimed at improving tax governance and clamping down on tax evasion in Europe.

It reached agreement on a general approach, pending the opinion of the European Parliament, on one of the measures, namely a draft directive aimed at strengthening mutual assistance between member states in the recovery of taxes.

The directive will be adopted at a forthcoming Council meeting, once the Parliament's opinion is available.

The other measures in the package comprise:

– a draft directive aimed at enlarging the scope of directive 2003/48/EC on the taxation of savings interest;

– a draft directive aimed at strengthening cooperation between the member states in the field of direct taxation;

– a draft agreement with Liechtenstein on measures to combat tax fraud;

– a draft decision authorising the Commission to negotiate anti-fraud agreements with Andorra, Monaco and San Marino, as well as a new anti-fraud agreement with Switzerland.

Mutual assistance in the recovery of taxes

The draft directive is aimed at better meeting the member states' needs with regard to the recovery of taxes, providing an overhaul of directive 76/308/EEC (codified by directive 2008/55/EC), on the basis of which the member states have engaged in mutual assistance since 1976 aimed at clamping down on tax evasion.

National provisions on tax recovery are limited in scope to national territories, and fraudsters have taken advantage of this to organise insolvencies in member states where they have debts. Member states therefore increasingly request the assistance of other member states to recover taxes, but existing provisions have only allowed a small proportion of debts to be recovered.

The draft directive is intended to provide for an improved assistance system, with rules that are easier to apply, including as regards information held by banks and other financial institutions; it is intended to provide for more flexible conditions for requesting assistance, requiring the spontaneous exchange of information.

Ralf Grahn