Anti-tax evasion measures approved by EU finance ministers
Ministers agree to propose joint list of tax havens and approve plan to automatically exchange data on shell company owners
EU finance ministers have approved a series of measures to tackle tax-evading methods that were exposed by the Panama Papers.
Speaking on the second day of talks in Amsterdam, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the finance minister of the Netherlands, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said: “The sense of urgency is definitely much bigger.
“We’ve been [so] very busy competing with each other … that big companies tend not to pay taxes.”
The 28 EU member states are “very committed to close the gaps,” added Dijsselbloem, the president of the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers.
Among the measures, the EU will propose a joint list of tax havens to expose jurisdictions used by European individuals and companies to evade or minimise tax.
Pierre Moscovici, the European economic affairs commissioner, said: “There is unanimous support that Europe create its own list of tax havens by this summer.”
EU countries already have individual lists based on differing criteria, which could make drawing up a unified register difficult.
The ministers also supported a proposal to automatically exchange data in order to expose the real owners of shell companies.
Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain unveiled the measure at the G20 talks in Washington DC earlier this month.
The French finance minister, Michel Sapin, said “there is an assumed and converging willingness to fight any anonymous mechanisms” that aid tax evasion and money laundering.
EU member states will begin talks next week on new rules requiring big companies operating in Europe to make public what they earn in each country, Dijsselbloem said.
Country-by-country reporting has long been a key demand of tax activists, who accuse big corporations of secretly shifting profits to low-tax jurisdictions, often through the use of shell companies.
EU governments are divided on the proposal, with some arguing that sensitive corporate data should remain exclusive to tax authorities and not be made public.
Austria’s finance minister, Hans Jörg Schelling, said: “I think we should not overshoot in tackling these things out of the hysteria on Panama.”