EU inquiry into tax evasion

The European Parliament’s Green Party has cleared the first legal hurdle for the creation of a committee to look into tax evasion in the wake of revelations about hundreds of secret deals for companies in Luxembourg.

EU inquiry into tax evasion

The proposal gathered the backing of more than the required 188 MEPs to seek approval for a vote in the full European Parliament.

“An inquiry committee is the most powerful tool available to the parliament and can investigate breaches of EU law by member states”, Sven Giegold, a German Green MEP, said on his website yesterday. It will ensure MEPs “have sufficient resources for such an investigation, as well as access to the necessary documents”.

The revelations last year of thousands of pages of secret tax deals with companies from around the world, including PepsiCo and Walt Disney, has shaken Luxembourg.

In the wake of the disclosures, the European Commission widened its request for full lists of companies that obtained tax rulings between 2010 and 2013 to the entire EU. Luxembourg is among countries that have come under pressure amid a global push to fight tax evasion and tax fraud.

Last year, the country announced plans to abandon its long practice of offering bank secrecy and switch to a system of automatic exchange of tax information starting this year.

Amid a push to repair “reputational damage,” Luxembourg has vowed to rein in sweetheart tax deals, the country’s finance minister, Pierre Gramegna, told Bloomberg News in an interview last month.

The revelations of 28,000 pages of leaked documents by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that showed international corporations effectively lowered their tax bills to less than 1% of profit in Luxembourg also threw the spotlight on Jean-Claude Juncker, the nation’s prime minister for almost 19 years until 2013, who is now president of the European Commission.

Mr Juncker, who took up his post at the commission in November, said he had no involvement in the deals in his time as finance minister or premier of the nation.

“We’re not an enemy of Mr Juncker. We are an enemy of tax evasion,” Philippe Lamberts, a Belgian member of the parliament’s Greens group, said at a press conference yesterday in Strasbourg.

The commission’s competition department is conducting probes into Luxembourg’s taxation of Amazon and FiatFinance & Trade, Irish tax deals with Apple, and the Netherlands’ treatment of Starbucks.

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