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EU policies – Delivering for citizens: The fight against tax fraud

28-06-2019

Tax policy, and the fight against tax fraud, have gained particular exposure over the past five years as a result of the light shed by repeated tax leaks and the related journalistic investigations. This has added to the increasing lack of acceptance of damaging tax practices, especially since the recession and the resulting budget constraints. The fight against tax fraud aims at recovering revenue not paid to the public authorities. It also aims at ensuring that fraudsters do not have an advantage ...

Tax policy, and the fight against tax fraud, have gained particular exposure over the past five years as a result of the light shed by repeated tax leaks and the related journalistic investigations. This has added to the increasing lack of acceptance of damaging tax practices, especially since the recession and the resulting budget constraints. The fight against tax fraud aims at recovering revenue not paid to the public authorities. It also aims at ensuring that fraudsters do not have an advantage over compliant taxpayers, thus ensuring tax fairness between taxpayers. Unpaid taxes result in reduced resources for national and European Union (EU) budgets. Though the scale of unpaid taxes is by nature difficult to estimate, available assessments hint at large amounts of resources lost to public finances. Citizens' evaluation of the EU's current involvement in the fight against tax fraud has improved, but the majority of citizens in each Member State still share expectations for even more intensive involvement. Despite this, there is still a considerable gap between citizens' evaluations and expectations of EU involvement. There is still room for improvement in addressing the preferences and expectations of EU citizens. The fight against tax fraud is shared between Member States and the EU. Coming under tax policy, it has remained closely linked to Member State sovereignty, protected by the requirement for unanimity and a special legislative procedure which keeps tax matters firmly under the Council's control. This has been the case since the Union's beginnings, in spite of the proposed limited changes to the tax framework. As shortcomings have been more clearly identified, the discussion has been opened anew in speeches on the State of the Union delivered by the President of the European Commission before the European Parliament. Fighting tax fraud covers not only actions against illegal behaviour, but also the deterrence of fraud and measures to foster compliance. As a result it involves a large reboot of tax provisions, to upgrade them for the scale and features of tax fraud as it is and as it evolves. In spite of the notable deliveries during the 2014-2019 parliamentary term, there remains work ahead, namely because all provisions need to be implemented, enforced, monitored and, if need be, updated, to keep up with the versatility of tax fraud and the pace of digital evolution globally. This is an update of an earlier briefing issued in advance of the 2019 European elections.

Public country-by-country reporting by multinational enterprises

26-04-2019

Tax transparency has gained particular importance as a tool in the fight against tax avoidance and tax evasion, particularly in the field of corporate income tax and aggressive tax planning. Cooperation between tax authorities aims at allowing them to obtain information covering the global business of multinational enterprises (MNEs), and progress has already been made in this area. A further step in tax transparency would be to broaden it by providing publicly available information relating to tax ...

Tax transparency has gained particular importance as a tool in the fight against tax avoidance and tax evasion, particularly in the field of corporate income tax and aggressive tax planning. Cooperation between tax authorities aims at allowing them to obtain information covering the global business of multinational enterprises (MNEs), and progress has already been made in this area. A further step in tax transparency would be to broaden it by providing publicly available information relating to tax paid at the place where profits are actually made. Public country-by-country reporting (CBCR) is the publication of a defined set of facts and figures by large MNEs, thereby providing the public with a global picture of the taxes MNEs pay on their corporate income. The proposal is being considered by the European Parliament (EP) and the Council. In the EP, the amendments put forward by the ECON and JURI committees were voted on 4 July 2017. In the absence of a Council position enabling negotiations on the proposal, the Parliament adopted its position at first reading in plenary on 27 March 2019. Third edition. The ‘EU Legislation in Progress’ briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

TAX3 Special Committee report

20-03-2019

The European Parliament's Special Committee on financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance (TAX3) was set up in March 2018 to build on and complement the work carried out in the EP since 2014. Its report, submitted for debate during the European Parliament's March II plenary session, takes stock of the continued topicality of these issues and of the progress made, as well as the remaining work ahead to fight financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance. It also paves the way for further monitoring ...

The European Parliament's Special Committee on financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance (TAX3) was set up in March 2018 to build on and complement the work carried out in the EP since 2014. Its report, submitted for debate during the European Parliament's March II plenary session, takes stock of the continued topicality of these issues and of the progress made, as well as the remaining work ahead to fight financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance. It also paves the way for further monitoring and follow-up actions.

Understanding money laundering through real estate transactions

04-02-2019

Money laundering through real estate transactions integrates black funds into the legal economy while providing a safe investment. It allows criminals to enjoy assets and derived funds having camouflaged the origin of the money used for payment. A number of techniques are used, namely cash or opaque financing schemes, overvalued or undervalued prices, and non-transparent companies and trusts or third parties that act as legal owners. Among the possible indicators are geographical features (such as ...

Money laundering through real estate transactions integrates black funds into the legal economy while providing a safe investment. It allows criminals to enjoy assets and derived funds having camouflaged the origin of the money used for payment. A number of techniques are used, namely cash or opaque financing schemes, overvalued or undervalued prices, and non-transparent companies and trusts or third parties that act as legal owners. Among the possible indicators are geographical features (such as the distance between the property and the buyer and their actual geographical centre of interest). In order to assess the existence of a money-laundering risk, concrete assessments of transactions and a customer's situation provide indications that help raise red flags and trigger reporting obligations. The anti-money-laundering recommendations set out by the international Financial Action Task Force (FAFT) are implemented in the European Union (EU) by means of coordinated provisions (chiefly the Anti-money-laundering Directive). Customer due diligence and reporting of suspicious transactions are tools to address money laundering. Real estate transactions involve both non-financial and financial sector parties operating under different legal requirements. Yet, reporting of suspicious transactions in real estate is limited, leaving ample room for improvement. Improvement is all the more necessary inasmuch as money laundering in general, and in the real estate sector in particular, has a major socio-economic impact, the magnitude of which is difficult to quantify. Awareness is however growing as a result not least of high profile examples of money laundering through real estate in a number of EU cities.

Reduced VAT rate for e-publications

19-12-2018

The fact that print and digital publications have been subject to separate value added tax (VAT) rates essentially means that products that are considered to be comparable and substitutable have been treated differently to one another. This situation resulted from rules which, on the one hand, allowed Member States to apply reduced rates to printed publications, but on the other excluded this possibility for digital publications. In addition, the evolution in the VAT framework means that VAT on digital ...

The fact that print and digital publications have been subject to separate value added tax (VAT) rates essentially means that products that are considered to be comparable and substitutable have been treated differently to one another. This situation resulted from rules which, on the one hand, allowed Member States to apply reduced rates to printed publications, but on the other excluded this possibility for digital publications. In addition, the evolution in the VAT framework means that VAT on digital services should be levied in the Member State where the consumer is based (thus protecting the single market from application of different rates within a Member State because of the different location of providers). The question of broadening the possibility to apply reduced rates to all publications, be they print or digital, was addressed as part of the VAT digital single market package. The amendment to the VAT directive was adopted by the Council on 6 November 2018, after the European Parliament had delivered its opinion on 1 June 2017. The new rules allow Member States to apply the reduced rate to e-publications, as from 4 December 2018.

VAT for small enterprises

25-10-2018

Value added tax (VAT) is a consumption tax borne by the final consumers and collected by businesses as taxable persons. Businesses have VAT administrative obligations and act as VAT collectors. This generates compliance costs that are higher for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) than for bigger businesses, in spite of the small business exemption, especially in the case of cross-border activities. The proposal for a revision of the VAT Directive relating to the common system of value added ...

Value added tax (VAT) is a consumption tax borne by the final consumers and collected by businesses as taxable persons. Businesses have VAT administrative obligations and act as VAT collectors. This generates compliance costs that are higher for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) than for bigger businesses, in spite of the small business exemption, especially in the case of cross-border activities. The proposal for a revision of the VAT Directive relating to the common system of value added tax as regards the special scheme for small enterprises simplifies the rules, so as to reduce VAT compliance costs for SMEs by introducing simpler measures regarding invoicing, VAT registration, accounting and returns for SMEs, whether they operate in wholly domestic markets only or also across borders in the EU. The legislative proposal falls under the consultation procedure. The European Parliament adopted its resolution on 11 September 2018, and the proposal is now with the Council. Second edition. The ‘EU Legislation in Progress’ briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure. Please note this document has been designed for on-line viewing.

Steps towards a definitive VAT system

26-09-2018

Harmonisation of domestic provisions on value added tax – VAT – dates back to 1967 because of the potential distorting effect of this consumption tax on the single market. The transitional VAT arrangements, departing from the destination-based principle, have applied in the single market for more than two decades. Since 2016, the VAT framework is being reviewed and updated, moving to a destination-based framework that also includes a revision of the VAT rate provisions. Parliament is due to vote ...

Harmonisation of domestic provisions on value added tax – VAT – dates back to 1967 because of the potential distorting effect of this consumption tax on the single market. The transitional VAT arrangements, departing from the destination-based principle, have applied in the single market for more than two decades. Since 2016, the VAT framework is being reviewed and updated, moving to a destination-based framework that also includes a revision of the VAT rate provisions. Parliament is due to vote on two Commission proposals on VAT during its October I plenary session.

Tax transparency for intermediaries

03-07-2018

The situations highlighted by the ‘Panama papers’ and ‘Paradise papers’, among others leaks show how certain intermediaries and other providers of tax advice appear to have facilitated companies and individuals in avoiding taxation, often through complex cross-border schemes involving routing assets to, or through, offshore entities. Among the tools to fight tax avoidance and aggressive tax planning are established mechanisms for disclosure of tax information and publication of tax-relevant information ...

The situations highlighted by the ‘Panama papers’ and ‘Paradise papers’, among others leaks show how certain intermediaries and other providers of tax advice appear to have facilitated companies and individuals in avoiding taxation, often through complex cross-border schemes involving routing assets to, or through, offshore entities. Among the tools to fight tax avoidance and aggressive tax planning are established mechanisms for disclosure of tax information and publication of tax-relevant information by companies. In June 2017, the Commission adopted a proposal aimed at ensuring early information on such situations, by setting an obligation to report cross-border arrangements designed by tax intermediaries or taxpayers and by including the information collected in the automatic exchange of information between tax authorities within the European Union. The directive was adopted on 25 May 2018, and it is to be applied from 1 July 2020. Third edition. The ‘EU Legislation in Progress’ briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

EYE event - Globalisation: In the twilight zone

16-05-2018

The twilight zone is the area beyond common legal and ethical limits. It hints at the challenges raised by shadow transactions, which are not transparent and possibly not in line with applicable requirements either. The question is how far openness and transparency should go to remedy opaque or hidden activities. Although this topical issue is not limited to matters of taxation, it is of particular importance in this field.

The twilight zone is the area beyond common legal and ethical limits. It hints at the challenges raised by shadow transactions, which are not transparent and possibly not in line with applicable requirements either. The question is how far openness and transparency should go to remedy opaque or hidden activities. Although this topical issue is not limited to matters of taxation, it is of particular importance in this field.

Listing of tax havens by the EU

14-05-2018

Broadly speaking, 'tax havens' provide taxpayers, both legal and natural persons, with opportunities for tax avoidance, while their secrecy and opacity also serves to hide the origin of the proceeds of illegal and criminal activities. One might ask why establishing a list of tax havens or high-risk countries is useful. Drawing up such lists started with action to stop harmful tax practices arising from the discrepancy between the global reach of financial flows and the geographically limited scope ...

Broadly speaking, 'tax havens' provide taxpayers, both legal and natural persons, with opportunities for tax avoidance, while their secrecy and opacity also serves to hide the origin of the proceeds of illegal and criminal activities. One might ask why establishing a list of tax havens or high-risk countries is useful. Drawing up such lists started with action to stop harmful tax practices arising from the discrepancy between the global reach of financial flows and the geographically limited scope of jurisdictions, matching or inside national borders. However tax havens are referred to, they all have one thing in common: they make it possible to escape taxation. Distinctive characteristics of tax havens include low or zero taxation, fictitious residences (with no bearing on reality) and tax secrecy. The last two are key methods for hiding ultimate beneficial owners. In the EU, the process of adopting a common list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions, which is also central to determining whether a third country presents a high risk in relation to money-laundering, was initiated as part of efforts to further good tax governance, and its external dimension. On 5 December 2017, the Council adopted a first common list resulting from the assessment of third countries against distinctive criteria. Pursuing the assessment process, the Council has updated the list on the basis of commitments received, while also reviewing countries that had not yet been assessed. This briefing updates and develops an earlier one, from December 2017 'Understanding the rationale for compiling 'tax haven' lists', PE 614.633.

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