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Taxation of savings income

The European Union (EU) intends to enable interest on savings received in one Member State by individuals who are resident for tax purposes in another Member State to be made subject to effective taxation in accordance with the laws of the latter Member State.

ACT

Council Directive 2003/48/EC of 3 June 2003 on taxation of savings income in the form of interest payments.

SUMMARY

The aim of the Directive is to enable savings income, in the form of interest payments made in one Member State to "beneficial owners" * who are individual residents for tax purposes in another Member State, to be made subject to effective taxation in accordance with the laws of the latter Member State. The automatic exchange of information between Member States concerning interest payments * is the means chosen to achieve effective taxation of these "interest payments" in the Member State where the beneficial owner is resident for tax purposes. Member States must therefore take the necessary measures to ensure that the tasks necessary for the implementation of this Directive - cooperation and exchange of banking information - are carried out by paying agents established within their territory, irrespective of the place of establishment of the debtor of the debt claim producing the interest.

Income concerned

The scope of this Directive is limited to taxation of savings income in the form of interest payments on debt claims, to the exclusion of the issues relating to the taxation of pension and insurance benefits. At territorial level, the Directive applies to interest paid by a "paying agent" * established within the territory to which the Treaty applies.

The general system: exchange of information

  • Information reporting by the paying agent

Where the beneficial owner is resident in a Member State other than that in which the paying agent is established, the Directive stipulates that the latter must report to the competent authority of its Member State of establishment a minimum amount of information, such as the identity and residence of the beneficial owner, the name and address of the paying agent, the account number of the beneficial owner or, where there is none, identification of the debt claim giving rise to the interest, and information concerning the interest payment.

Moreover, the minimum amount of information concerning interest payment to be reported by the paying agent must distinguish between the specific categories of interest listed in the Directive. However, Member States may restrict the minimum amount of information to the total amount of interest or income and to the total amount of the proceeds from sale, redemption or refund.

  • Automatic exchange of information

Under the Directive, the competent authority of the Member State of the paying agent must communicate - at least once a year, within six months following the end of the tax year of the Member State of the paying agent - the information referred to above to the competent authority of the Member State of residence of the beneficial owner.

Context

As part of the "tax package" aimed at combating harmful tax competition, the European Union (EU) decided to draw up a legislative instrument to overcome existing distortions in the effective taxation of savings income in the form of interest payments.

This Directive builds on the consensus reached at the Feira European Council of 19 and 20 June 2000. During this Council, it was decided to set up of an automatic exchange of information system between all Member States. Belgium, Luxembourg and Austria benefited from a transitional period for the implementation of this measure during which, instead of providing information to the other Member States, they had to apply a withholding tax to the savings income covered by this Directive.

Key terms used in the act
  • Beneficial owner: any individual who receives an interest payment or any individual for whom an interest payment is secured, unless he provides evidence that it was not received or secured for his own benefit.
  • Paying agent: any economic operator who pays interest to or secures the payment of interest for the immediate benefit of the beneficial owner, whether the operator is the debtor of the debt claim which produces the interest or the operator charged by the debtor or the beneficial owner with paying interest or securing the payment of interest. In specific cases set out in Article 4 of the Directive, any entity established in a Member State to which interest is paid or for which interest is secured for the benefit of the beneficial owner is also considered a paying agent upon such payment or securing of such payment.
  • Interest payment: interest paid or credited to an account, relating to debt claims of every kind, whether or not secured by mortgage and whether or not carrying a right to participate in the debtor’s profits, and, in particular, income from government securities and income from bonds or debentures, including premiums and prizes attaching to such securities, bonds or debentures; penalty charges for late payments are not regarded as interest payments; interest accrued or capitalised at the sale, refund or redemption of the debt claims referred to above; income deriving from interest payments either directly or through certain entities set out limitatively, distributed by undertakings for collective investment in transferable securities (UCITS) or certain undertakings for collective investment; income realised upon the sale, refund or redemption of shares or units in UCITS, if they invest directly or indirectly, via other undertakings for collective investment or entities, more than 40 % of their assets in debt claims.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 2003/48/EC

16.7.2003

Date of application: 1.7.2005

OJ L 157 of 26.6.2003

The successive amendments and corrections to Directive 2003/48/EC have been integrated into the original text. This consolidated version is for reference only.

RELATED ACTS

Proposal for a Council Directive of 13 November 2008 amending Directive 2003/48/EC on taxation of savings income in the form of interest payments [COM(2008) 727 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
This Proposal for a Directive aims at offsetting the shortcomings in the current directive, with a view to taxing savings income more effectively and eliminating the undesirable distortions of competition.

In this perspective, the main amendments proposed concern the following points:

  • the definition of the beneficial owner: a proposal for a ‘look-through’ approach to cover interest payments made to legal persons or arrangements held by individuals (the current directive only covers interest payments made for the immediate benefit of individuals);
  • the identification of beneficial owners: the recording of the date and place of birth of the beneficial owner in all cases and in addition the tax identification number of the beneficial owner when this number appears on documents presented for identification purposes is proposed;
  • the definition of the notion of paying agent: clarification of the notion of ‘paying agent on receipt’ and the introduction of a ‘positive’ definition of intermediary structures established in Member States and bound to act as ‘paying agents on reception’;
  • the definition of interest payment, in order to cover financial instruments that are equivalent to those which are explicitly covered: structured products that are equivalent in substance to debt commodities and some insurance products that are directly comparable to undertakings for collective investment since their performance is linked to debt claims or equivalent income;
  • the extension of the scope to all undertakings for collective investment in transferable securities (UCITS);
  • the communication of information by paying agents;
  • the introduction of a comitology procedure so as to quickly decide implementation measures related to the Directive.
 
Last updated: 27.09.2011
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