EU heavyweights’ tax loopholes targeted

The EU stepped up a probe into tax loopholes for multinational companies, demanding details of specific agreements in 15 nations including euro-area heavyweights Germany, France and Italy.

Regulators also issued an ultimatum to Poland and Estonia for failing to hand over information about tax deals. The EU ordered them to fall in line within one month or face possible legal action at the European Court of Justice.

Margrethe Vestager, the bloc’s antitrust chief, is seeking to throw the spotlight onto the tax affairs of multinationals across the EU, potentially adding to probes targeting the fiscal arrangements of Apple in Ireland, Starbucks in the Netherlands and Amazon and a Fiat unit in Luxembourg.

“We are putting together the puzzle of tax-ruling practices in the EU,” Ms Vestager said yesterday. “Sometimes we had to ask member states twice — or more — to provide information.”

Ms Vestager said last month that regulators will fail to complete the tax probes into Apple, Amazon, Starbucks, and Fiat by the middle of this year. The former Danish economy minister inherited the cases when she took over the EU role at the start of November. All the companies have said that they acted within the law.

Italian, German, Polish, and Estonian officials declined to immediately comment. The French government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The EU in December sought lists of every company granted a so-called tax ruling between 2010 and 2013. With the exception of Estonia and Poland, all EU countries co-operated and provided the required information in full, the commission said.

The commission is now digging deeper by seeking further information on tax rulings from the three biggest euro-area nations as well as Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden. The commission is in charge of policing state subsidies that skew competition and can request countries to claw back illegal aid.

The EU regulator is not the only authority facing resistance to attempts to shed light on corporate tax affairs.

Executives from 13 companies have rebuffed invitations to a European Parliament hearing examining low-tax deals for big businesses.

Only Total confirmed its attendance at a June 23 session. Excuses for not attending included short notice for the invitations, ongoing probes, and travel commitments. Officials said last week they have not given up on finding mutually convenient dates.

Article Source: http://tinyurl.com/kbwqb42