Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker appeared in person for Parliament’s extraordinary debate on the fight against tax avoidance, prompted by the recent revelation of secret deals granting preferential tax treatments to multinational companies in Luxembourg.
Mr Juncker underlined that the tax rulings in Luxembourg were not illegal even though he admitted that "there probably was a certain amount of tax avoidance in Luxembourg, as in other EU countries. We find this everywhere in Europe because there is insufficient tax harmonisation in Europe", he explained, adding that Commissioner Moscovici will initiate proposals for an automatic exchange of information regarding national tax rulings."
EPP President Manfred Weber (DE) said he was confident that Jean-Claude Juncker will resolve the problems that are now on the table, adding that "it is not the EU that failed, but the member states themselves who have made no efforts to harmonise their corporate tax bases. We need transparency on national tax rulings as well as harmonised tax bases."
S&D President Gianni Pittella (IT) said he "feels indignation for people hurt by big companies that don't pay taxes where the profits were made. Tax avoidance is a world phenomenon and the biggest shame is that it is not even illegal. Therefore the law has to be changed. Mr Pitella proposed three measures: firstly a clear definition of “tax havens”, secondly severe penalties for offenders and thirdly country-by-country tax reporting.
ECR's Kay Swinburne (UK) also called for further action, especially against aggressive tax avoidance and underlined the need for global country-by-country reporting on national tax rulings. "This is long overdue", she said. Parliament should await the outcome of Commissioner Vestager's investigation before judging, she added.
ALDE President Guy Verhofstadt (BE) said the Investigation by the Commission must be completed by the end of the year and deal not only with three countries, but with the problem of tax evasion in general. He also called for a special investigative committee to be set up in Parliament and asked others groups to support this. "This is also a clear case where we need more Europe – to set up common tax compliance legislation and a convergence code not general harmonisation, because we don't know at what level to harmonise" he said.
Gabriele Zimmer (GUE/NGL, DE) asked Mr Juncker to explain his actions as a former Prime Minister of Luxembourg and why he allowed companies the opportunity to avoid tax in his country, and thus limiting the funds available to fight poverty and job creation.
Philippe Lamberts (Greens/EFA, BE) said it was high time to stop the waging tax wars in Europe. "The ones who benefit from this are the multinational companies and the very wealthy ones, whereas the victim is European public finances, hence the EU citizens." ." He asked Commissioner Vestager to broaden the scope of the investigation.
Paul Nuttall (EFDD, UK) said: "Mr Juncker, when you were campaigning during the European elections you stood on a platform of fighting tax evasion by multinationals but indeed you allowed that tax evasion in Luxembourg. Citizens are sceptical, because you want them to ‘do as I say, not as I do’. You have only two options: either to resign or to stand down while the investigation takes place."
Bruno Gollnisch (NI, FR) accused Mr Juncker of using scandals to get more power. He stated that tax harmonisation is not needed but that there is a need to make multinationals pay tax in the countries where they make profits. He also voiced concerns that Commission officials, led by President Juncker, will be responsible for the inquiry into several cases, including in Luxembourg.