EU seeks quick fix to put off­shore tax rules in place

The Star Late Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Francesco Guaras­cio

THE EU NEEDS a quick agree­ment on pro­posed rules for lawyers, bankers and other ad­vis­ers who help de­vise ways to ag­gres­sively cut tax bills, the Euro­pean tax com­mis­sioner said yes­ter­day.

The ap­peal for more trans­parency on tax mat­ters comes af­ter new rev­e­la­tions, known as the Par­adise Pa­pers, of wide­spread use by com­pa­nies and wealthy in­di­vid­u­als of off-shore ju­ris­dic­tions.

In a speech in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment in Stras­bourg, Pierre Moscovici called on mem­ber states and EU leg­is­la­tors to agree “in the next six months” on pro­pos­als made by the EU’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mis­sion in June that would force tax ad­vis­ers to re­port client tax-plan­ning schemes.

Moscovici also urged mem­ber states to agree by the end of the year on an EU black­list of tax havens to re­duce the ap­peal of off-shore ju­ris­dic­tions that charge lit­tle or no cor­po­rate tax.

Ag­gres­sive tax plan­ning and tax avoid­ance are not il­le­gal in them­selves, but they are con­tro­ver­sial and could hide il­licit ac­tiv­i­ties.

The pro­posal on stricter rules on tax ad­vis­ers would im­pose sanc­tions on lawyers, ac­coun­tants, banks and other con­sul­tants that do not dis­close tax ar­range­ments that could help avoid­ance.

So far, the com­mis­sion’s pro­posal has made lit­tle progress. On tax mat­ters, all 28 EU states have to agree on re­forms, a pro­vi­sion that has al­lowed smaller, low-tax coun­tries to block sev­eral over­hauls.

Lux­em­bourg and the Nether­lands are the EU coun­tries with the largest vol­ume of as­sets held in fi­nan­cial ve­hi­cles owned by cor­po­ra­tions that shift funds within com­pa­nies across borders, show data cited by the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank in an Oc­to­ber.

In to­tal, those cor­po­ra­tions hold about 10 tril­lion(R168.52trln) in the two coun­tries, ECB data show, mak­ing up around one-eighth of the euro zone’s en­tire fi­nan­cial sys­tem.

The en­ti­ties “are mainly set up in Lux­em­bourg for fi­nan­cial en­gi­neer­ing and tax-plan­ning pur­poses,” a re­port pre­pared for the Grand Duchy’s cen­tral bank, and cited by the ECB, said in April.

The re­port on the coun­try’s shadow bank­ing sys­tem added that most of th­ese com­pa­nies “have vir­tu­ally no phys­i­cal pres­ence in Lux­em­bourg”. Com­mis­sion They are usu­ally part of larger oil, food, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal or tele­coms cor­po­ra­tions and “are mainly used to chan­nel funds from or via Lux­em­bourg to other en­ti­ties of the group domi­ciled abroad,” the re­port said.

Un­der the pro­pos­als on tax ad­vis­ers made by the com­mis­sion, lawyers or banks that helped set up th­ese struc­tures would prob­a­bly be re­quired to re­port them to tax au­thor­i­ties to shed more light on th­ese deal­ings.

How­ever, pro­fes­sional con­fi­den­tial­ity may pre­vent tax ad­vis­ers from dis­clos­ing data on their cus­tomers.

In a re­port pub­lished last week, EU law­mak­ers raised con­cern that Lux­em­bourg-based tax ad­vis­ers used such con­fi­den­tial­ity to avoid giv­ing in­for­ma­tion to Lux­em­bourg’s tax ad­min­is­tra­tion on clients in­volved in the so-called Panama Pa­pers, an­other mas­sive leak of fi­nan­cial doc­u­ments last year. – Reuters

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