Tuesday

26th May 2020

Tax commissioner lets rip against Austria and Luxembourg

  • Semeta on Tuesday: 'I leave it to them to explain [it] to citizens across Europe' (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

"Completely unjustifiable ... grossly unfair ... a mystery" - the European Commission and the Danish EU presidency have given Austria and Luxembourg a tongue-lashing for protecting tax evaders.

The harsh words came after the two countries on Tuesday (15 May) blocked the commission from holding talks with Switzerland on a new savings tax law designed to recoup some of the estimated €1 trillion a year lost to EU exchequers in tax fraud and evasion.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Tax commissioner Algirdas Semeta in a press conference in Brussels said: "The position that Austria and Luxembourg have taken on this issue is grossly unfair. They are hindering 25 willing member states from improving tax compliance and finding additional sources of income."

He added: "They claim that they are protecting their own national interests. This excuse does not stand up ... I leave it to them to explain to citizens across Europe why they can support tax hikes and spending cuts for ordinary people, but won't allow us to step up our fight against tax evaders."

Danish economic affairs minister Margrethe Vestager took his side.

"It is a mystery why we shouldn't move on making people pay the taxes that they should pay," she noted. She described Austria and Luxembourg's decision as "unfortunate."

For their part, Luxembourg and Austria have declined to publicly explain why they are against the move.

Semeta on Tuesday indicated they object to "automatic transfer" of tax data between EU countries and Switzerland, even though the alternative is trusting Switzerland to decide which data it gives and which it withholds.

He added that automatic exchange is becoming the international gold standard in the field, with "the US moving in the same direction."

In a previous interview with EUobserver, he said they are also concerned about the UK and Germany making bilateral deals with Switzerland which would make British and German banks more competitive. But the UK and Germany have changed the bilateral arrangements to fall in with Semeta's law.

In the same interview he noted it might be a deeper problem related to "the long history and traditions of banking secrecy" in Austria and Luxembourg.

He added on Tuesday that the EU cannot use its so-called "enhanced co-operation" mechanism - where a sub-group of nine or more EU countries move forward on a given dossier - because there must be a level playing field on tax in the Union.

EU experts to focus on tax-evading Greeks

Tax evasion remains one of the greatest challenges for experts tasked with helping Greece with administrative reform. Twelve member states are helping out.

Austria attacks UK, as EU finance talks get ugly

Austria has accused the UK of being a haven for money launderers ahead of an EU meeting in Dublin, with Cyprus, Ireland, Portugal and Slovenia's (potential) bailout needs also on the agenda.

News in Brief

  1. Johnson: Shops in UK will reopen on 15 June
  2. German doctors: Summer holidays could cause second wave
  3. EU forced to choose between China and US: Borrell
  4. Spain to lift two-week arrival quarantine from July
  5. Germany gives Lufthansa €9bn bailout for equity stake
  6. Volkswagen ordered to pay in landmark 'dieselgate' case
  7. 40 million health workers urge more G20 investment
  8. Jourova: Budget rule-of-law link 'more needed than ever'

Coronavirus

ECB promises (almost) whatever it takes

The eurozone's central bank has promised to buy up to €750bn of government and private bonds in new pandemic counter-measures.

Opinion

What does coronavirus 'Black Swan' mean for markets?

Falling demand and prices for oil and raw materials will revive the risk of deflation. The collapse in international trade and long-term rethinking of China's role as the major hub for the production of consumer goods and electronics is inevitable.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  3. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic co-operation on COVID-19
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic research collaboration on pandemics

Latest News

  1. How Kaczyński ruined Poland, judges tell MEPs
  2. EU data protection rules abused to censor media
  3. Draft EU 'green recovery' plan amid clash over natural gas
  4. Clock is ticking: 300,000 vs 3.3m Covid-19 Africa deaths?
  5. Recovery plans unveiled This WEEK
  6. EU and UK stumbling into Irish border crisis
  7. Malta patrol boat 'intimidates' capsized migrants
  8. How coronavirus might hit EU defence spending

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us