Tuesday

16th Jul 2019

Top five EU states push for tax transparency

  • Austria and Luxembourg have been opposed to loosening rules on bank secrecy (Photo: Images_of_Money)

France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK have agreed to more automatic exchanges of banking data to fight tax evasion, increasing pressure on Austria and Luxembourg to give up their veto on the equivalent EU bill.

In a joint letter to the EU commission sent on Tuesday (9 April), the finance ministers of the five largest EU countries say they have agreed on a "pilot" project of "automatic information exchange" aimed at fighting tax evasion.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The initiative is open to other member states and is based on a recently adopted law in the US - the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act - that requires US citizens to declare their bank accounts held abroad and foreign banks to notify US tax authorities about their American clients.

A similar EU-wide law has so far been held up by Austria and Luxembourg, both keen on preserving bank secrecy for domestic and foreign clients.

The five finance ministers "call on all EU member states to agree without delay" on the bill, so that "Europe can take a lead in promoting a global system of automatic information exchange, removing the hiding places for those who would seek to evade paying their taxes."

The collapse of the Cyprus banking system - which like Luxembourg's was much larger than the country's GDP - and a series of revelations about the offshore banking model have increased pressure on Austria and Luxembourg to change their position.

Luxembourg has already signalled "openness" to discuss bank secrecy. And on Tuesday, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann told the Kleine Zeitung his country was "ready for talks on a more intensive exchange of information on international investors."

But added that bank secrecy will remain in place for domestic customers and said it would be "absurd" for an Austrian grandmother to have to show her savings accounts to the Austrian finance minister.

The comments came after a spokesman for EU tax commissioner Algirdas Semeta said it was "unacceptable" that Austria was refusing to reform its banking secrecy laws.

Semeta also welcomed the initiative of EU's five largest countries and said in a statement this it may "speed up" the EU efforts. "

"Transparency is the key when it comes to fighting tax evasion and the global environment today leaves little room for those who resist it," Semeta said.

Luxembourg may loosen bank secrecy

Luxembourg may consider opening up its massive banking sector to greater scrutiny following concerns people are stashing away wealth from foreign tax inspectors.

French leader promises anti-tax-cheat crusade

French leader Hollande has promised to "eradicate" tax havens in the EU and in the wider world, after his approval rating fell to 26 percent following a tax scandal.

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. Ansip's ex-cabinet chief to head EU cybersecurity agency
  2. Malta starts trial of journalist murder suspects
  3. Full text of von der Leyen candidacy speech to MEPs
  4. Von der Leyen open to further Brexit delay
  5. Von der Leyen promises carbon border tax
  6. Brexit: both UK PM candidates say Irish backstop is 'dead'
  7. Mogherini: Iran's nuclear enrichment 'reversible'
  8. Report: Selmayr to leave 'next week'

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all

The visit of Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz to the White House on Wednesday showed that the current rift in transatlantic relations is deepening by the day.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Son: Malta trial for murdered journalist 'not enough'
  2. Von der Leyen's final appeal to secure top EU post
  3. EU talks tough on Turkey, but arms sales go on
  4. The Abortion Exodus - more Poles and Croats going abroad
  5. Poland's ex-PM loses EU parliament chair again
  6. Von der Leyen reaches out to left and liberal MEPs
  7. Farmers among new MEPs deciding on EU farming money
  8. Von der Leyen's EU vote far from sure

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us