Thursday

21st Feb 2019

EU states set to oppose tax transparency bid

  • Protests in Iceland following the Panama leaks ended with the prime minister's resignation. (Photo: Art Bicnick)

EU states are moving to oppose an EU commission tax transparency plan despite public backlash against wealthy people hiding their money in secret offshore accounts.

Diplomats on Tuesday (20 December) plan to drop proposals to grant public access to registers that reveal the true owners of businesses and trusts.

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 registers are part of a larger transparency drive to shed light on tax dodging schemes that cost national coffers in the EU an estimated €70 billion a year.

But a compromise text from the Slovak EU presidency now restricts access to such registers to people who can demonstrate a "legitimate interest", or those who work with the police.

The "legitimate interest" criterion is likely to make it more difficult for journalists, civil society, and the general public to access the information.

"No-one seems to agree on what legitimate interest means," the Financial Transparency Coalition, an NGO, wrote in a blog ahead of the meeting.

Further loopholes

The latest amendment is part of the EU commission's reform of the anti-money laundering directive. The directive was adopted in 2015 but revised in the wake of the Panama Papers leak earlier this year to make registers fully public.

The Panama cache of 11.5 million records had revealed how some 140 politicians and public officials from around the world, with the help of major banks, hid assets by setting up front companies.

But Bloomberg BNA news website earlier this month reported that EU states are now using data protection rules to quash setting up the public registers.

EU states can still make the registers public if they so choose but must "respect the protection of fundamental rights of individuals in particular the right to privacy and protection of personal data", notes the Slovak paper.

Not every member state supports the plan.

Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Slovenia and the UK have already decided to make their registers public.

Another issue is that the EU commission wanted to make sure that anyone who had at least a 10 percent stake must be revealed, but EU states are pushing to increase the threshold to 25 percent.

Despite the EU commission efforts, tax transparency campaigners say it contains loopholes.

Family trusts, for example, can still be used to hide money because the commission makes a distinction between commercial and non-commercial trusts.

Analysis

Iceland's not-so-quiet revolution

In the space of three years, Iceland's main parties have seen their vote decimated, and new parties may well take almost half the electorate in Saturday's election.

Panama Papers: Iceland PM half-resigns

Iceland PM to step aside, but only for "an unspecified amount of time”, as ruling coalition fights for survival following Panama Papers leak on offshore funds.

MEPs demand stronger rules against tax evasion

MEPs in the civil liberties and economic committees voted in favour of toughening up EU wide rules on tax evasion, as they gear up for institutional talks in March on the EU's anti-money laundering directive.

Opinion

Eastern Europe Matters

The foreign ministers of Sweden, Poland and the Czech Republic reflect on 10 years of the Eastern Partnership with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all
  2. EU commission appeals Dieselgate ruling
  3. 'No burning crisis' on migrant arrivals, EU agency says
  4. 'No evidence' ECB bond-buying helped euro economy
  5. Juncker: Orban should leave Europe's centre-right
  6. College of Europe alumni ask rector to cut Saudi ties
  7. EU says Hungary's anti-Juncker campaign is fake news
  8. Trump right for once: Europe should take back foreign fighters

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us