24 May 2012
Tax and financial havens: a threat to the EU's internal market
Tax and financial havens quite often cover up laundered money gained not only by legal means, but also from crime and economic offences, such as tax evasion and corruption. The increasing disruption caused to the functioning of the internal market triggered the EESC to endorse an own-initiative opinion on tax and financial havens at its May plenary session. Among other measures, it demands tougher controls and greater coordination to fight against this malpractice.
The economic crisis has further incited the need for an adequate EU policy against tax and financial havens. Illicit capital flows (that rise by more than 10% annually) have disastrous implications for the on-going sovereign debt crises. Furthermore, Member states that are obliged to introduce drastic budget cuts do not receive billions of euros, due to fiscal evasion. Just as in Spain, this amount is estimated at 90 billion Euros, whereas the national government has recently introduced dramatic cuts in the public education and health care systems.
"Tax and finance havens are part of the history of capitalism, with examples dating as far back as the late Middle Ages," stated Edgardo Maria Iozia (Workers' Group, Italy), rapporteur of the EESC opinion adopted today. "But the phenomenon has now ballooned to substantial proportions, having spread to every part of the world – the Pacific, the Caribbean and islands in the Atlantic – since the Second World War, including small and micro-states in Europe".
In order to put an end to this abusive practice, the EESC demands further action to eradicate opaque tax jurisdictions and to compel Member States to combat crimes that originate in many of these jurisdictions. The current legislation leads to an abuse of the principle of "residence" by means of ownership arrangements and fictitious residency. Holding companies not actively engaged in business allow the owners to avoid paying taxes in their country of domicile. According to the EESC opinion, it is necessary to restrict the right to free establishment in the case of completely spurious businesses set up exclusively for tax purposes.
In addition, the EESC also proposes to remove all obstacles to the automatic exchange of bank information so that the authors of transactions and owners of bank accounts can be easily identified.
"The most serious crimes such as murder, extortion, arms and drugs trafficking or the trafficking of women and children are quite often backed by the so-called tax havens. Because of ethical and economic reasons, the European Union should take a tough stance against this current form of fiscal piracy", concluded Bernardo Hernández Bataller (Various Interests' Group, Spain).
For more information, please contact:
Karin Füssl, Head of the Press Unit
Tel.: +32 2 546 8722
European Economic and Social Committee
Rue Belliard 99, 1040 Bruxelles, Belgium
Tel.: +32 2 546 8207 – Fax: +32 2 546 9764
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