rapporteur . – Mr President, one of the major challenges of the annual tax report for this year was to employ a more political view on the subject rather than just following the standard path of doing business as usual.
The emergence of the LuxLeaks cases during the drafting period has vindicated our view and compelled a political response. It was necessary for the Parliament to take a political position and not to pretend that nothing had happened. This annual tax report is the standard vehicle of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs on tax issues. The interest shown in it by MEPs is proved by the numerous amendments tabled on the issue, urging a clear political message.
There was a wide range of proposals. More specifically, we can underline the focus on issues related to the requirement for social justice in tax policies. There was widespread concern about the taxation of capital, the taxation of income resources from interest payments, dividends and security returns, as well as on the control of financial vehicles used to facilitate tax evasion. In the same vein, the financial transaction tax still remains very popular. Many colleagues made proposals on its enhancement and expansion, as well as on the use of its proceeds to augment either the EU budget or the fund for climate change and even the European Fund for Strategic Investment.
Moreover, the discussion indicated the persistent concern of the Parliament about corporation taxation, especially the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB) and the minimum corporate tax contributions. There were many proposals which linked taxation to the competitiveness of European firms, as well as amendments on the way in which SMEs are taxed.
Finally, the Parliament is still divided between those who favour coordination and those who favour harmonisation. The recurring coordination failures – as SwissLeaks and LuxLeaks also indicate – prompted many of our colleagues to stress the importance of more harmonisation on tax issues, using the European Semester, and other issues such as access to funding for honest taxpayers. The Parliament, as indicated in the compromise process, attempted to show a responsible stance with very strong support for a set of policies for assisting the fight against aggressive tax planning, tax avoidance and tax evasion, as well as policies to minimise the tax gap.
There is also widespread understanding of the necessity for good governance in tax matters, for simple tax systems and tax policies that encourage entrepreneurship, strengthen competitiveness and support SMEs, and, moreover, understanding of the social consequences of tax policies, especially for economically weaker people.
There are also issues that we can discuss further in the future, so as to share common ground for common policy initiatives. These issues include a definition of tax havens, sanctions against those who assist in tax fraud, country-by-country reporting, the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting, the FTT, and shifting the tax burden from labour.
One of the most important contested issues concerned the automatic exchange of information for making tax ruling practices and non—transparent agreements between Member States and multinationals apparent. So, in the light of current developments and public concern, it is extremely important for the Parliament to show its firm stance against any non—transparent practice that reduces legal certainty for taxpayers and distorts intra-market competition.
We welcome the Commission’s prompt proposal on tax transparency to fight tax evasion and avoidance, which stresses that the provision of information can no longer be refused on the grounds of inappropriate disclosure of information and of commercial, industrial or professional secrecy. However, we must be very sceptical so long as the set of consequences for those who do not comply is not explicitly identified.
Overall, despite the disagreement, we can say that the annual tax report is clear, coherent and focused, and that it lays the basis for a relevant, timely, fair, transparent, socially responsible and business-friendly tax policy for the European Union.