Public Affairs Networking
Tax fraud is still a major media interest

European media continue to comment on the plan unveiled by the European Commission on 12 April to limit tax evasion, in the aftermath of the Panama Papers scandal. In an opinion article in Le Monde, European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, and Commissioners Jonathan Hill and Pierre Moscovici explain the directive, which would require 6,500 large multinational companies to declare their profits and taxes, country by country (Country-By-Country Report, or CBCR). To create jobs and growth, companies must be robust and trusted, the Commissioners argue, concluding that greater transparency will allow for fair competition.

According to Slovenian Delo, Commissioner for Financial Stability Hill also declared that the Panama Papers scandal had “strengthened [the Commission’s] determination to make sure that taxes are paid where profits are generated.” In Denmark, Information writes that leaks like the Panama Papers and LuxLeaks will get politicians in both the European Union and the US to act quickly, but adds that it is not enough to make rules, they must also be enforced.

Meanwhile, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that Wolfgang Schäuble has announced plans from the UK, Italy, France, Spain and Germany to network their corporate registers in a way that reveals the real owners of international assets. Libération further notes that the European Commission’s proposal was revised upward after the Panama papers scandal, and that if this directive is approved, it will be a world first. In addition, President of the Party of European Socialists (PES) Sergei Stanishev stated that the proposal was a good starting point in the fight against tax evasion in Europe, Trud reports in Bulgaria.

However, part of the European left and some NGOs believe that this proposal does not go far enough, Libération further reports. According to MEP Pervenche Berès, “banks are already subject to CBCR and that is not a problem”, adding that the threshold should be lowered to €40 million. In an interview with Slovenian Delo, Elena Gaita from the Brussels representation of Transparency International also declares that the Commission’s proposal does by no means go far enough – and will not ensure enough tax transparency. “We support reporting by countries at a global level, without geographical restrictions,” she says.

Moreover, Finnish Verkkouutiset writes that civic organisation Finnwatch agrees that the European Commission’s proposal does not increase transparency enough, pointing out that the EU would not be able to receive information from developing countries, or significant economic areas such as the US or China. In an opinion piece in Belgian De Standaard, MEPs Bart Staes and Philippe Lamberts explain the European Parliament’s TAXE committee is still waiting for some documents it requested from EU member states and the European Commission. They further denounce the Commission’s project to protect business secrecy as a blow to both journalists and whistle-blowers.



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