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Parliamentary questions
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6 May 2010
Answer given by Mr Šemeta on behalf of the Commission
Question reference: E-1423/2010

The Commission is aware of the phenomenon of ‘hijacking of Value Added Tax (VAT) numbers’ and considers that the use of another trader's VAT number when purchasing goods abroad is an offence comparable to the use of false documents (such as invoices). This practice should therefore be subject to the equivalent administrative and criminal proceedings at national level.

Hijacking a VAT number is also one of the many complex mechanisms used in cross-border VAT fraud schemes. Dismantling this type of fraud often involves the cooperation of tax authorities from different Member States.

The Commission therefore presented in May 2006 a Communication(1) with a view to launching at EU level a profound debate on the need for a coordinated approach in the fight against fiscal fraud.

The Anti Tax Fraud Strategy (ATFS) expert group, involving experts from all Member States, was created in order to follow up on this communication.

The expert group came up with a series of potential measures. Their deliberations provided significant input to the Commission's Communication of December 2008 on a coordinated strategy to improve the fight against VAT fraud in the EU(2). This communication sets out a coherent short term action plan and timeline for legislative measures aimed at enhancing the capacity of tax administrations to prevent or detect VAT fraud and to recover taxes.

Since then, the Commission has presented all the proposals announced in that Communication from 2008. However, the result of these new measures will depend on what will be adopted by the Council and within what timeframe and on how Member States will effectively implement these new instruments in practice.

The Commission's ability to combat VAT fraud must respect the division of competences between the EU and the Member States. The organisation and the management of fiscal systems is primarily the responsibility of Member States. The assessment, collection, auditing, and the recovery of VAT therefore come under the responsibility of Member States.

The role of the Commission is to ensure a solid legal framework for a common VAT system in the EU's internal market, and improved administrative cooperation between Member States, and to help create organisational frameworks which allow such cooperation.

(1)COM(2006)254 final.
(2)COM(2008)807 final.

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