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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 15 November 2013

Towards an efficient VAT system: 7th Brussels tax forum

On Monday 18 November the 7th Brussels Tax Forum will gather 250 participants from 37 countries to discuss the EU VAT system, and how to improve its efficiency. Among the topics to be discussed are the fight against VAT fraud, improving VAT compliance and the role of VAT in fiscal consolidation. Commissioner Šemeta will host the Forum and deliver the opening address. Among the other high-level speakers are Belgian State Secretary John Crombez, Portuguese State Secretary Paulo Nuncio and MEP Sharon Bowles. This annual event is an important opportunity for policy-makers, stakeholders and experts to come together, exchange views and discuss solutions on key issues in the field of EU taxation.

Algirdas Šemeta, Commissioner for Taxation, said: "Value Added Tax (VAT) is paid for by citizens, collected by businesses and accounts for over 20% of national revenues. It therefore has a significant impact on every EU citizen and every Member State's budget. Our reform of the EU VAT system is already well underway, but we still have some way to go in making VAT as fraud-proof, efficient and business friendly as it can be. The Brussels Tax Forum is the perfect opportunity to gather expertise, experience and ideas to feed into the continuing reform."

The first session at the Forum will focus on how to better fight against VAT fraud. VAT fraud not only leads to considerable revenue losses, but also creates competitive distortions and extra tax burden for honest tax payers. Important new legislation to prevent carrousel fraud has been adopted this year. However, participants will be asked to consider other measures that could reduce this problem further. Discussions are scheduled on innovative ways to improve the fight against fraud such as joint actions between businesses and tax administrations, both domestically and across borders.

The second session will examine how improving the design of VAT can contribute to fiscal consolidation. VAT represents 20% of all taxes collected in the EU, and therefore plays a significant role in the quality of Member States' revenues. Improving the efficiency of VAT could help Member States better meet their fiscal needs without the need for further tax rises. Discussions will include a look at the concrete example of Portugal, and also consider the question of how effective reduced VAT rates actually are.

The third session of the Forum will focus on facilitating compliance and reducing burdens for businesses. Improving the VAT system can substantially reduce the administrative burden for businesses, as pointed out in the recent Commission Communication on Regulatory Fitness (IP/13/891). Recent positive initiatives have been the new invoicing rules, which entered into force in January 2013, and the proposal for a standard VAT declaration (IP/13/988). A simpler VAT system is simpler to comply with, and can therefore have a positive impact on VAT receipts too, as more taxpayers pay what they owe.


The Brussels Tax Forum is an annual conference that brings together policy makers, experts, stakeholders and the general public from all over the world to discuss tax issues of particular political and general interest. A different theme is chosen each year, usually on the basis of the most pressing political and practical challenges in the area of taxation.

The Forum will take place in Centre de Conference Albert Borschette in Brussels from 10:00 to 17:15.

Useful Links

Web streaming of the conference will be available on 18 November from this web link:

Further information on the Forum as well as the programme can also be found at this web link:

Homepage of Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta, EU Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-fraud Commissioner:

Follow Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta on Twitter

Contacts :

Emer Traynor (+32 2 292 15 48)

Franck Arrii (+32 2 297 22 21)

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