The European Union needs a quick agreement on proposed rules for lawyers, bankers and other advisers that help devise ways to aggressively cut tax bills, the European tax commissioner Pierre Moscovici has said, writes Francesco Guarascio.
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, Mr 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 tax-planning schemes devised for their clients.
“We know that multinationals, wealthy individuals, consultants, banks work hand in hand to subtract massive amounts of tax revenues,” Mr Moscovici said.
He likened tax professionals that help evasion to “vampires that fear the light,” and against which only transparency can work as a deterrent.
Mr 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 in some cases 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.
Mr Moscovici also urged progress on commission proposals to disclose publicly the ultimate owners of trust companies and other financial entities that benefit from exemptions on revealing who their clients are.
Talks on this reform have been going on for more than a year, but Britain, Malta, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Ireland are among the countries opposing more transparency. Other countries fear more public scrutiny could lead the firms to move outside the EU.
No breakthrough was expected from a new round of talks planned yesterday.