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Speech - Savings taxation - Statement by Commissioner Šemeta at the Economic and Finance Ministers Council

European Commission - SPEECH/13/932   15/11/2013

Other available languages: none

European Commission

Algirdas Šemeta

Commissioner responsible for Taxation and Customs Union, Statistics, Audit and Anti-fraud

Savings taxation - Statement by Commissioner Šemeta at the Economic and Finance Ministers Council

Ecofin Council

Brussels, 15 November 2013

First of all, allow me to thank the Lithuanian Presidency for putting this topic on the agenda today.

Today's economic climate leaves no doubt that tax fraud must be tackled with conviction. As a result of the G8 and G20 political momentum, the OECD has already prepared the ground for a new global standard of automatic exchange, which will become operational in 2016.

And the EU warmly welcomes this, as a pioneer and practitioner of automatic exchange since 2005.

The challenge facing us today is how to ensure a solid EU legislative framework that will also be part of the legal basis for our Member States in applying the new global standard.

Do we want to ensure that the EU keeps pace with progress?

Do we want our banks to have clarity on the reporting obligations that they will face?

Do we want to show our negotiating partners that we know where we are going – and have full credibility when we ask them to go there too?

Of course, the answer to all these questions is "yes – we do".

Some of you are leading the way in the OECD, and I congratulate you on that. One or two of you are more cautious, with concerns about global competitors and a ‘level playing field’.

Let me assure you that I want a level playing field too.

Once you gave the Commission the mandate to negotiate enhanced Savings Agreements with Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Andorra and San Marino, I immediately visited all five countries.

I left no doubt that the EU wants these Savings Agreements to be updated in line with international developments, and that includes incorporating the automatic exchange of information.

Switzerland is in the process of formalising its mandate. In the meantime, we have been in contact with the new Swiss State Secretary for International Financial and Tax Matters.

The other 4 now have their own negotiating mandates, and formal negotiations have begun.

The results so far have been positive.

All States acknowledge the new reality of automatic exchange of information and the importance having accurate and complete information on real beneficial owners.

And all acknowledge that the scope of the information to be exchanged cannot be as narrowly defined as it is today. In fact, where formal negotiations have started, we see a willingness to examine an even wider scope than that of the Savings text before you today.

More generally, it is clear that the era of banking secrecy is coming to an end.

Countries such as Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Singapore have committed to FATCA agreements with the US. And Switzerland has signed the OECD multilateral convention on administrative assistance.

Therefore, the backdrop to our discussions today is more favourable than it has ever been.

To Luxembourg and Austria in particular, I say – you need to recognise the changes that have occurred since you first spoke of a level playing field.

In particular, the EU is no longer making the first move. The world is already moving. And the EU must not be left behind.

It is time to adopt the revised Savings Directive. It is time to send a clear signal to our market operators and negotiating partners. It is time for a show of unity in building a new and coherent EU legal framework within which our Member States can operate.

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