The European Commission (EC) proposes two programmes to enhance cooperation between tax and customs authorities and fund the required IT systems in the 2014-20 period.
Cooperation between EU national authorities in the field of taxation and customs is currently carried out within the framework of Fiscalis 2013 and Customs 2013 programmes. These cover the 2008-13 period and aim to share best practices and increase cooperation between Member States (MS), candidate countries and potential candidates. In November 2011, the EC had proposed to create a single successor programme, called FISCUS, for 2014-20. The European Parliament (EP) and the Council did not find merging the programmes to be beneficial. The Commission took these views into account and amended its proposal in August 2012 to set up separate Fiscalis 2020 and Customs 2020 programmes. The funding earmarked for the programmes will be €223 million and €522 million respectively (in current prices, under the June agreement on the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-20).
Fiscalis 2020 programme
Fiscalis’ aim is to support cooperation between tax authorities, in order to boost their efficiency and reduce the administrative, economic and time burden for taxpayers engaged in cross-border activity. The programme will support initiatives and cooperation to fight tax fraud, tax evasion and aggressive tax planning by facilitating networking, common actions and staff training among tax authorities. It will also fund IT systems to assist the exchange of large quantities of information between tax authorities. The programme will cover all taxes subject to EU tax legislation including VAT, excise duties, taxes on energy products, etc.
Customs 2020 programme
The EU customs union requires handling large trade volumes on a daily basis (seven customs declarations every second) – implying intensive operational cooperation between MS’ customs administrations, other authorities, traders and other third parties. Customs 2020 will further support this cooperation by allowing exchange of best practices and operational knowledge, training, setting up expert teams, as well as funding IT infrastructure and systems. The EC expects that action at EU level will improve MS’ capacity to collect revenue and manage increasingly complex trade flows, while reducing the costs of developing the appropriate tools.
The European Economic and Social Committee supports the programmes, especially the need to develop IT systems, but would like to see more detailed assessments of the impacts on EU and MS budgets. The British Government supports the voluntary nature of both programmes while opposing any possibility to extend Fiscalis into the area of direct tax. It also argues for a real freeze in the budget along with a focus on the objectives which will give the greatest benefit to the MS. The French Senate states that the EC proposal renews and improves current programmes and as such does not require changes.
The November plenary is due to vote on trilogue agreements on the two programmes. The Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (rapporteur: Theodor Dumitru Stolojan, EPP, Romania) is responsible for Fiscalis 2020. It preferred to limit cooperation with non-EU countries to fighting tax evasion and tax fraud, as well as ensuring an EU dimension by requiring participation of at least three countries (two of which are MS) in projects.
On 26 September, the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, (rapporteur: Raffaele Baldassarre, EPP, Italy) endorsed the trilogue agreement reached by its negotiators on Customs 2020. The agreement adds specific objectives called for by the Committee, as well as a list of indicators which may be amended and setting out the allocation of funds within the programme.