Monday

15th Apr 2024

EU scraps bank secrecy to catch cross-border tax evaders

EU finance ministers on Tuesday (7 December) agreed to remove bank secrecy as a reason for blocking cross-border tax fraud investigations, in a bid to find fresh resources for cash-strapped state coffers.

"Tax evaders can no longer exploit bank secrecy as an excuse," EU taxation commissioner Algirdas Semeta said after the meeting.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

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

... or subscribe as a group

  • Cross-border tax fraud will no longer hide behind bank secrecy (Photo: Flickr)

He called the deal "a huge step forward in the fight against tax evasion and tax fraud in the EU" at a time when budgets are under huge pressure amid the widespread drive to bring down public deficits.

The agreement will introduce time limits for national tax authorities to answer requests for information on citizens or businesses and parameters for the "automatic" exchange of information.

Targeted is all "income from employment, directors' fees, dividends, capital gains, royalties, certain life insurance products, pensions, and ownership of and income from immovable property." The new rules will apply from 1 January next year, but they will not be retroactive.

The deal has been blocked for almost a year by Austria and Luxembourg, whose national systems still allow for banking secrecy. They still managed to limit the extent to which "automatic" exchange of tax information will be carried out, with only five categories of income and capital, rather than eight, as originally proposed by the European Commission, to be included in the new measures.

The remaining three may be added later, in 2017, when the EU executive is set to review the policy.

Vienna and Luxembourg also managed to get an obligation for the tax authorities to ask information on specific suspects, ruling out general searches for tax evaders.

Luxembourg's finance minister Luc Frieden was quoted by DPA as saying he obtained important concessions, especially the fact that "fishing expeditions are not permitted" and that the list did not include savings, meaning "banking data."

Mr Frieden said the deal leaves individuals "the possibility to manage their resources across frontiers, guarding their privacy while being cooperative in the fight against fiscal fraud."

Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU

European environmental groups have urged the EU Commission to stand firm on implementing the bloc's landmark anti-deforestation legislation — despite a backlash from governments in South America, Africa and some EU ministers.

Analysis

'A race to the bottom': How the CAP green ambitions unravelled

The EU's easing of green agricultural policy conditions as a response to farmers' protests has sparked controversy. Critics fear that short-term quick fixes are not a solution for the sector, while others cite a CAP-Green Deal gap.

Opinion

This 'deregulation' lobbying now threatens EU economy

Next week's EU summit (17-18 April) will discuss the strategic agenda for the next five years. The current "competitiveness agenda" is to a large extent driven by a big lobbying campaign — so far, not well covered by the media.

Latest News

  1. EU special summit, MEPs prep work, social agenda This WEEK
  2. EU leaders condemn Iran, urge Israeli restraint
  3. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'
  4. Belgium declares war on MEPs who took Russian 'cash'
  5. Brussels Dispatches: Foreign interference in the spotlight
  6. Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation
  7. Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU
  8. China's high-quality development brings opportunities to the world

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us