MIL OSI – Source: European Union – Press Release/Statement
Headline: Remarks by Commissioner Moscovici at the press conference at the launch of the new transparency rules to tackle terrorism financing, tax avoidance and money laundering
Today marks an important further step towards achieving the greater tax transparency that Europeans have been demanding in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal. We are going further and faster than ever before in the fight against tax evasion and money laundering, with the aim of ensuring both social justice and fighting organised crime and terrorism. We are responding to the expectations of our citizens, who are understandably outraged by the revelations of recent months.
From our first day in office, this Commission has made fair taxation as a key priority. We have secured more openness and cooperation between Member States on issues such as tax rulings and multinationals’ tax information. We have developed new anti-abuse measures to tackle the most common aggressive tax planning schemes. And we are working on new tools to promote tax good governance well beyond the borders of the European Union.
[Follow-up to Panama Papers]
Today, we take the next steps in this reform process – targeting, in particular, the shady activities that have been exposed in recent media leaks. The “Panama Papers” revealed that, despite recent progress on tax transparency, tax evaders can still hide behind opaque offshore companies and trusts to escape taxation. They also highlighted the central role that tax advisors – including law firms and financial institutions – play in facilitating tax evasion and avoidance. And they confirmed that there are still countries around the world that encourage tax evasion and avoidance – either deliberately or through weaknesses in their good governance structures.
So how do we plan to stop this type of tax abuse in the future?
First, we want to give tax authorities crucial information on the individuals behind any company or trust. This is essential for them to be able to identify and clamp down on tax evaders. To do this, we have proposed that tax authorities should have access to anti-money laundering information, which is already regulated under EU law.
We have also tightened up the rules on this information and extended its scope. For example, passive companies – like those at the centre of the Panama Papers – trusts, and existing accounts, will all be subject to more scrutiny by national authorities.
Of course, the real benefit to tax administrations would be automatic access to other countries’ information on who owns what. Because tax evaders and avoiders don’t respect borders, they exploit them. So tax transparency needs to stretch beyond national boundaries too. We will therefore start work on a new initiative for the automatic exchange of beneficial ownership information between tax authorities across Europe.
Second, we must create more transparency around the activities of tax advisors, and more scrutiny of those that promote aggressive tax planning schemes. Internationally, the OECD has recommended through its Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project that countries should make it mandatory for tax advisors to disclose aggressive tax planning schemes. However, this is rather unspecific and very few countries have followed up.
We would therefore like to see robust EU rules to hold tax advisors to greater account. Common and effective EU legislation in this area could also be an inspiration to our international partners. Of course, this is a highly complex area, so we will need to consult, discuss and research to find the best approach. However, the Commission is determined to push for new EU rules in this area during this mandate and we will launch a public consultation on this very soon.
Third, we will take a tougher stance against countries that allow offshore funds to be used for illicit purposes. As Commissioner Jourova will outline for you in a moment, the Commission is about to adopt the first EU list of countries that fail to meet international anti-money laundering standards.
In addition, there will also be an EU list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions – let’s call it as it is, tax havens, as I announced at the beginning of the year. This common EU tax list will be an extremely effective way of putting pressure on countries that do not play fair in the global tax arena and of dealing with third countries that refuse to respect good governance standards.
Our Member States are fully behind the idea of this common EU list, and work is underway to identify the countries we wish to screen. Over the course of the coming year, we will screen third countries that we consider to be of particular relevance, from a tax perspective, and will present the first common EU list in 2017.
As I have said before, the fight against tax evasion and avoidance cannot be a static one. It must evolve and react to new challenges and circumstances. That is exactly what we have done today, with these initiatives, which I believe are a robust response to the wide-scale abuse that was recently exposed.
And we have more to come this year in the area of tax reform – not least our proposal to re-launch the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base or CCCTB.
Brick by brick, we are building a solid defence structure against tax evasion and tax avoidance in Europe. And we are also gaining leadership as the EU in the international cooperation in these matters. We are establishing a robust response system against external threats to Member States’ tax bases – and a clear path towards fairer taxation for all EU citizens and businesses.
I will also say a very few words on another item on which there will be no question and therefore no answer, but I will have to make a brief statement, I imagine that some of you are waiting for that.
It is about Spain and Portugal. The College, a few minutes ago, has dealt with this question. We had a first discussion in this context this afternoon. Why? Because the college made the commitment to come back early July, and now it is early July, to the fiscal situation in Spain and Portugal for 2013 and 2015. As I said we have just had a first discussion in this context at the College meeting.
We will adopt the necessary decisions very soon and we will communicate and explain to you, alongside Vice-President Dombrovskis, all the details of those decisions at that stage, meaning when the decisions are taken, not before. And this is not today.
What I can tell you now is that we have acted, since the beginning of this Commission, we are acting now and we will act within the rules of the Pact, which have to be respected, and that’s the job of the Commission and it is a matter of credibility. But these rules are also intelligent and they demand to be applied in an intelligent way. And that is the very spirit, with which we will take our decisions, again, very soon.
And I will have to leave you, without other answers on the matter which is of course the most important for you, the fight against tax evasion and tax fraud.
Thank you very much.