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10 March 2015

European Voice: MEPs’ tax inquiries take shape

The members of the European Parliament’s special committee on tax evasion began setting out their work programme at its first business meeting in Strasbourg March 9.

The committee discussed the path to follow up to August, the length of its initial six-month mandate, but made no firm decisions.

The committee was set up after the European Commission had launched investigations into tax rulings agreed between multinational companies and national authorities in Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Ireland, and in the wake of ‘Lux Leaks’ disclosures about such arrangements.

The co-ordinators of the political groups agreed on a timeframe for the months to come. There will be 11 meetings of the committee, though many MEPs said that they will need to move quickly in order to achieve results.

As part of their investigation, delegations of MEPs from the committee will visit member states to get an understanding of their tax rulings. However, some MEPs suggested that to save time the representatives of the national parliaments should visit the Parliament instead.

Co-ordinators said that they want to go beyond the institutional framework and talk to journalists, unions and academics as well. The Greens came forward with a list of names of prominent politicians such as finance ministers whom they believe should be questioned – but the committee did not discuss any names yesterday.

As a first step, the matter will be touched upon in today’s (10 March) meeting of finance ministers from the European Union’s member states. According to Alain Lamassoure, the French centre-right MEP who is chairing the committee, the European Council on 19-20 March will also discuss the topic. On 30 March, at the next scheduled meeting of the committee, MEPs will talk to those European commissioners responsible for taxation.

The Commission has sent a questionnaire to the member states asking about their use of certain tax arrangements. The committee will need to get hold of that information, Lamassoure said, adding that the committee’s rapporteurs would need to come up with proposals for hearings and visits to the member states.

The co-ordinators discussed how to make those visits on an objective basis, without naming and shaming. Burkhard Balz, a German centre-right MEP, suggested that the visits should take place only at the beginning of the mandate as a starting-point to gather evidence.

Full article on European Voice (subscription required)

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