Thursday

8th Dec 2022

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

Become an expert on Europe

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.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  4. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  5. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  6. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe

Latest News

  1. EU takes legal action against China over Lithuania
  2. EU Commission shoring up children's rights of same-sex parents
  3. The military-industrial complex cashing-in on the Ukraine war
  4. EU delays Hungary funds decision, as Budapest vetoes Ukraine aid
  5. Borrell gets pension from MEP fund set for taxpayer bailout
  6. Autocrats make us all less secure
  7. Big Agri's lies: green EU farming not to blame for food insecurity
  8. German top court declares €800bn EU recovery fund 'legal'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us