Europe needs to decide on a digital tax and should lead the way if there is insufficient consensus globally, the EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, has said.
There is still disagreement among EU members over how to implement a so-called ‘Gafa tax’ — named after Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon — to ensure that the global internet giants pay a fair share of taxes on their massive business operations in Europe.
France has been driving hard for such a tax.
However, at a meeting of EU finance meetings over the weekend, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, and Denmark blocked a draft EU-wide Gafa tax proposal, officials said.
“We are becoming an increasingly digital world and it will be a huge problem if we do not find a way to raise (digital) taxes,” Ms Vestager told France Inter radio.
Ms Vestager — who is widely talked about as a candidate for the European Commission presidency when Jean-Claude Juncker’s term expires in November — said European countries first needed a deal which could lead to a EU-wide harmonised tax.
“The best thing is a global solution. But if we want to obtain results in a reasonable period of time, Europe must take the lead,” the commissioner said.
Lawmakers in France’s National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament, have this week begun debating a draft national Gafa tax law.
The bill proposes a 3% tax on digital advertising and other revenues of technology firms with worldwide revenues of more than €750m.
Ms Vestager, a former Danish economy minister, has a high profile in Brussels for attacking tax avoidance and monopoly powers among US multinationals.
Asked if she was interested in the commission presidency, she said: “I take a lot of interest in the future of Europe. My point is that before we decide on any kind of new face for the commission, we really need to know what we want to do.”
She hasn’t announced a public bid for the job, but if she does she would likely need the backing of French President Emmanuel Macron.
Internet giants are coming under increasing pressure from regulators globally.