European Commission tax crackdown to close loopholes surrounding offshore havens

Protection measures for whistleblowers are on the table

French Economy, Finance and Foreign Trade Minister, Pierre Moscovici (L) speaks with Italian Minister of Economy and Finance Fabrizio Saccomanni prior to a Eurozone finance ministers meeting at the EU Headquarters in Brussels on November 14
French Economy, Finance and Foreign Trade Minister, Pierre Moscovici (L) speaks with Italian Minister of Economy and Finance Fabrizio Saccomanni prior to a Eurozone finance ministers meeting at the EU Headquarters in Brussels on November 14

The European Commission is redoubling its efforts to stop tax evaders from hiding money offshore.

In a set of key actions outlined on Tuesday, Pierre Moscovici, commissioner for economic and financial affairs, taxation and customs, said that the Panama Papers and other tax leaks had shown that extra measures were needed to close loopholes.

“The recent leaks exposed loopholes that still allow tax evaders to hide funds offshore," Mr Moscovivi said.

"These loopholes must be closed and our measures to stamp out tax abuse must be intensified. The commission is determined to inject more openness and more trust into taxation. We have already come a long way and now is the time to go further. The EU’s tax transparency campaign continues.”

The guidelines stop short of amending the the law but contain recommendations for amendments and promise new powers to help European governments tackle tax evasion.

The EC has proposed that tax authorities are given access to money laundering information, including information on who owns and part-owns accounts, and that these accounts be subject to greater scrutiny. It plans to amend elements of EU directives on tax law to give governments this powers.

It is also looking into ways for EU member states to exchange information on tax avoidance. Protection measures for whistleblowers are on the table.

In May, five countries confirmed they would be joining the UK in setting up fully public registers of company owners – a measure considered to be the “gold standard” for exposing tax avoiders.

Mark Goldring, Oxfam chief executive, said a public register was the only way to ensure transparency about tax evasion.

“Until tax havens are required to publish public registers showing who really profits from shell companies, the corruption and tax dodging revealed by the Panama Papers will continue undisturbed and millions of people in both the UK and the world’s poorest countries will pay the price,” he said.

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