Brussels, 25th October 2002
Taxation: Commission welcomes approval of "Fiscalis" programme to combat fraud
The European Commission has welcomed the European Parliament and Council's approval under the co-decision procedure of the Fiscalis 2003-2007 programme. This programme, which the Commission proposed in January this year (see IP/02/144), helps Member States work more closely together with a view to preventing tax fraud, through improved electronic information exchange systems between national administrations, co-operation in investigations, training seminars for tax officials and experts and the exchanges of officials between national administrations. Candidate countries will also participate in the programme. Fiscalis 2003-2007 replaces and strengthens the existing Fiscalis programme which expires at the end of 2002. One of the main features of the new programme is that its scope is extended to direct taxation. The cost of the programme will be shared between the European Community (EC) and the participating countries and, with the EC Budget providing €44 million spread over the five years. The budget will be increased on enlargement of the European Union to cover the needs of the new Member States. The programme will run from 1 January 2003 to 31 December 2007. The approval became effective with the European Parliament's 24th October vote at its Strasbourg plenary session to approve the Common Position previously agreed by the EU's Council of Ministers, and formal adoption of the Fiscalis Decision will take place shortly once the text has been signed by the Presidents of the Council and Parliament.
"I am very pleased that the European Parliament and the Council have agreed on the adoption of the proposal so quickly and before the expiry of the current Fiscalis programme" remarked Taxation Commissioner Frits Bolkestein. "More intensive co-operation between Member States as well as with candidate countries is necessary to combat the tax fraud which damages both EU and national financial interests and Fiscalis 2003-2007 will provide the tools for such co-operation."
The Council and Parliament agreed to the Commission programme almost exactly as proposed by the Commission but reduced the budget for the programme, the cost of which will be shared between the European Community (EC) and the Member States. The cost for the EC will now be €44 million instead of the €55 million proposed by the Commission. The Commission has undertaken to go back to the Parliament and the Council to seek an increased budget should it prove necessary, for example to fund new electronic data interchange systems agreed in the future. Contributions from the candidate countries to whom the programme will be opened will be added to this budget of €44 million, and the overall budget will be increased on enlargement of the EU.
The programme will apply both to indirect taxes and, unlike the existing Fiscalis programme, to direct (income and corporate) taxes.
Activities to take place under the Fiscalis 2003-2007 programme
Communication and information exchange systems
Electronic communication and information exchange systems have a vital part to play in reinforcing taxation systems and in particular guaranteeing the effectiveness and efficiency of tax administration. Fiscalis 2003-2007 provides the necessary legal and budgetary basis for continuing the existing electronic information exchange systems in the VAT and excise duties fields and it also provides the legal base for new data interchange systems between Member States, such as in the direct taxation field, for the future.
Multilateral controls are by definition the collaboration of at least three administrations to integrate and co-ordinate their controls of taxable persons having tax obligations in the Member States concerned, within the Community legal framework for co-operation. Such controls have been very successfully used in the VAT area to achieve real financial results. Fiscalis 2003-2007 extends the possibility of multilateral controls to direct taxation.
Multinational seminars are an effective means of considering issues of common concern and developing best practice. Relevant seminars have already been and will be open to officials from the candidate countries.
Exchanges of officials have practical and work-based objectives, clearly targeted to particular activities and thoroughly prepared. Typically exchange officials carry out practical tasks on behalf of the administration visited and this has proved to be a useful means of disseminating best administrative practice. Officials from the candidate countries have already participated in exchanges and will do so more intensively under Fiscalis 2003-2007.
Common training programmes
The Fiscalis 2003-2007 programme provides for the development of a common core of training for national officials, including those from candidate countries. Provision is made both for common Community programmes and participation in each other's training courses. Fiscalis 2003-2007 also adds a further impetus to language training at Community level, given that an insufficient level of linguistic competence reduces the chances of successful co-operation between administrations.
The text of the Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council adopting Fiscalis 2003 to 2007 is available on the Europa internet site: