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Brussels, 16th November 2004

Excise duties: Commission welcomes Council adoption of new rules to strengthen cooperation between tax authorities

The European Commission has welcomed the adoption by the EU's Council of Finance Ministers of a Regulation to strengthen co-operation between Member States' tax authorities so as to combat fraud in the field of excise duties on alcohol, tobacco and energy products. The Regulation will ensure more direct contacts between local tax offices of Member States, so as to speed up information flows; establish clearer and more binding rules on cooperation between Member States; require more automatic and spontaneous information exchange (as opposed to information exchange on request); and improve the systems in place for the transmission of information. The Regulation, based on a Commission proposal of January 2004 (see IP/04/28), will complement the initiative to computerise the movement of excisable goods in the Community adopted in June 2003 (see IP/03/788) and is the counterpart to rules strengthening administrative co-operation in the VAT and direct tax fields adopted by the Council over the last year (see IP/03/1350 and IP/04/539).

"While tax fraud is by its very nature difficult to quantify, it is clear that excise duty fraud is a serious problem for many EU Member States" commented Taxation Commissioner Frits Bolkestein. “This Regulation will help tax authorities to combat this fraud by speeding up and broadening the scope of information flows".

The Regulation strengthens, simplifies and replaces provisions relating to administrative co-operation in the field of excise duties in two existing Directives (77/799/EEC concerning mutual assistance and 92/12/EEC on the general arrangements for products subject to excise duty). In particular, it will

  • ensure more direct contacts between local offices in Member States, while giving central liaison offices a role in overseeing this decentralised co-operation
  • establish a 3 month time limit within which Member States will have to respond to information requests from each other
  • formalise the procedures for officials from one Member State to carry out investigations in another
  • establish procedures for simultaneous audits by officials from two or more Member States
  • introduce an obligation for automatic information exchange, without prior request, in cases where there is, or is a risk of, serious fraud in a Member State
  • lay down rules concerning time limits for storage and concerning how information held should be exchanged
  • provide for transmission of statistical information to the Commission so as to allow the Commission to play a coordinating and facilitating role
  • provide for information exchange with non-EU countries.


Faced with evidence of widespread fraud affecting excise duties imposed on tobacco and alcohol products moving within the Internal Market, a high-level working party recommended in 1998 that legislative measures should be adopted to improve mutual assistance and administrative co-operation in the excise field, particularly through more direct communication between administrative departments and electronic systems. The cost of tax evasion in these sectors was put at €4.8 billion for 1996 (no EU figures are available for fraud involving energy products), against a total excise revenue for all Member States of €234 billion for the same year.

The text of the Regulation will soon be available on the Europa internet site:

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