Written by Cécile Remeur,
Tax policy, and the fight against tax fraud, have gained particular exposure over the five past years as a result of the light shed by repeated tax leaks and the related journalistic investigations. This has added to the increasing lack of acceptance of damaging tax practices, especially since the recession and the resulting budget constraints. The fight against tax fraud aims at recovering revenue not paid to the public authorities. It also aims at ensuring that fraudsters do not have an advantage over compliant taxpayers, thus ensuring tax fairness between taxpayers. Unpaid taxes result in reduced resources for national and European Union (EU) budgets. Though the scale of unpaid taxes is by nature difficult to estimate, available assessments hint at large amounts of resources lost to public finances.
Citizens’ evaluation of the EU’s current involvement in the fight against tax fraud has improved, but the majority of citizens in each Member State still share expectations for even more intensive involvement. Despite this, there is still a considerable gap between citizens’ evaluations and expectations of EU involvement. There is still room for improvement in addressing the preferences and expectations of EU citizens.
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The fight against tax fraud is shared between Member States and the EU. Coming under tax policy, it has remained closely linked to Member State sovereignty, protected by the requirement for unanimity and a special legislative procedure which keeps tax matters firmly under the Council’s control. This has been the case since the Union’s beginnings, in spite of the proposed limited changes to the tax framework. As shortcomings have been more clearly identified, the discussion has been opened anew in the latest speeches on the State of the Union delivered by the President of the European Commission before the European Parliament.
Fighting tax fraud covers not only actions against illegal behaviour, but also the deterrence of fraud and measures to foster compliance. As a result it involves a large reboot of tax provisions, to upgrade them for the scale and features of tax fraud as it is and as it evolves. Yet in spite of the notable deliveries during the current parliamentary term, there remains work ahead, namely because all provisions need to be implemented, enforced, monitored and, if need be, updated, to keep up with the versatility of tax fraud, as well as the need to keep pace with digital evolution globally.
Read this complete briefing on ‘EU policies – Delivering for citizens: The fight against tax fraud‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.