The European Commission has turned a blind eye to secretive tax deals that Ireland and other countries have been doing with multinationals for decades.
Only after complaints from the US did it launch investigations into the most high-profile cases — Apple in Ireland, Starbucks in the Netherlands, and Amazon in Luxembourg.
Then, following the Lux Leaks revelations that dragged commission president Jean-Claude Juncker into the scandal, it promised to introduce new laws on such tax deals.
A senior member of the European Parliament has now accused the commission of breaching the EU treaties and of maladministration for failing to enforce existing tax rules.
“The obligation to share this information is already there — and it was further clarified in 2012 in discussions with the member states,” said Philippe Lamberts, head of the Greens. “But the commission failed to check it was happening.”
Mr Lamberts said it should have been obvious to the commission that something was wrong from figures that showed companies lending or rerouting to their subsidiaries or parent company in another country vast sums of money to avoid paying tax, especially in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Ireland.
While international attention was focused on Ireland, it was not the worst country acting as a tax haven for multinationals, said Mr Lamberts. Netherlands is “the champion”, having signed 669 tax deals in 2013 alone.
“There have been horrible tax deals in Ireland but while Ireland is being targeted as the bad guy, Ireland is clearly just a member of the pack using these practices,” said Mr Lamberts. “The Netherlands should be targeted also because they are always lecturing everyone.”
Mr Lamberts, known as the “bankers’ bonus snatcher” for securing a legally binding cap on bankers’ bonuses in the EU two years ago, said they want a full investigation of all tax deals.
Six of Ireland’s 11 MEPs have signed up in support of a public tax hearing in the European Parliament which is expected to get the go-ahead and begin working in about a month.
They are hoping that representatives of companies and government figures will attend to give evidence. “They did in the US Congress so why not in the European Parliament,” said Mr Lamberts.
European Commissioner for Tax Pierre Moscovici is to produce legislation early this year to force countries into automatically sharing the tax rulings — or deals — they agree with companies.
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