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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Commissioner Pierre Moscovici's introductory remarks on VAT Administrative Cooperation and the forthcoming EU list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions

Brussels, 30 November 2017

Bonjour à toutes et à tous,

Je viens vous présenter aujourd'hui l'acte 2 de la vaste réforme du système européen de TVA que j'ai lancé le mois dernier: le renforcement de la coopération administrative en matière de fraude à la TVA.

Concrètement, nous proposons aujourd'hui de donner aux administrations fiscales des Etats membres les moyens de mieux lutter contre la fraude transfrontalière, en faisant équipe et en jouant collectif dans les enquêtes.

Notre objectif est toujours le même: c'est de faire rentrer dans les caisses des Etats membres les 50 milliards d'euros qui sont perdus chaque année, à cause de la fraude à la TVA transfrontalière et qui vont parfois dans la poche du crime organisé et du financement du terrorisme. Ce n'est pas la bonne poche.

Notre méthode n'a pas changé non plus: nous voulons renforcer la confiance mutuelle entre les administrations fiscales nationales et européennes pour construire un espace unique de TVA, à l'échelle du marché intérieur.

J'ajouterai que cette proposition tombe à point nommépuisque les récents scandales, notamment les "Paradise Papers", ont mis en lumière l'ampleur de la fraude à la TVA dans certains pays, sur des yachts ou des jets privés.

Que proposons-nous concrètement?

Premièrement, de renforcer les pouvoirs de ce qu'on appelle Eurofisc. Eurofisc, c'est un réseau de services nationaux d'enquêtes, composé d'experts qui travaillent à la détection des plus grosses fraudes transfrontalières, notamment celles qui portent, à nouveau, sur les bateaux, les avions et les voitures.

Nous voulons donner à Eurofisc la possibilité de s'appuyer sur des échanges d'informations rapides, fiables, ciblés, de coopérer en matière de renseignement, d'évaluer les risques. Les fraudeurs, il faut le reconnaitre, ont toujours un temps d'avance sur nous. Il faut donc pouvoir réagir rapidement, plus rapidement qu'aujourd'hui, et avec les moyens informatiques appropriés, notamment dans des secteurs-clés, comme le commerce électronique.

Deuxièmement, nous proposons de donner aux experts d'Eurofisc la possibilité de mieux travailler ensemble et de réaliser des contrôles fiscaux conjoints. Autrement dit, de faire équipe lorsque la fraude s'avère être de nature transfrontalière. Ça paraît logique, mais pour autant ce n'est pas suffisamment le cas.

Troisièmement, nous proposons de mettre en place une coopération opérationnelle entre les administrations fiscales nationales, les douanes et leurs partenaires européens tels qu'Europol, l'OLAF et le tout nouveau parquet européen. Des échanges d'informations devraient ainsi permettre aux administrations nationales de recouper les données de l'OLAF et d'EUROPOL avec leurs propres bases de données, comme les casiers judiciaires.Nous proposons aussi que le nouveau Parquet européen reçoive des informations sur les cas les plus graves de fraude transfrontalière à la TVA – ceux qui dépassent les 10 millions d'euros – afin qu'il ouvre des enquêtes et puisse poursuivre activement les fraudeurs.

Enfin, les autorités fiscales nationales auront accès aux données nationales relatives à l'immatriculation des véhicules afin de lutter contre la fraude à la TVA dans le secteur des véhicules d'occasion.

Voilà ce que je souhaitais vous dire sur la proposition TVA qui vient d'être adoptée. J'attends des Etats membres qu'ils se saisissent de ce dossier aussi rapidement que possible et se donnent ainsi les moyens de lutter plus efficacement contre la fraude à la TVA. Franchement, quand il s'agit de lutter contre la fraude et du lutter ainsi contre le crime organisé, le souverainisme fiscale ne doit pas avoir sa place.

I would also like to say a few words about the first common EU list of tax havens, which as you know Member States are expected to adopt at next Tuesday's ECOFIN Council, the 5th of December.

We, the Commission, and I, as Commissioner, have been supportive of the listing process.

One year ago, the Commission proposed a set of criteria which was endorsed by the Member States. These combine the principles and standards of the EU, the G20 and the OECD together, namely tax transparency, fair taxation and the implementation of OECD recommendations against profit shifting (the so-called BEPS standards).

Throughout this year, the Commission has assisted Member States' experts in their assessment of third countries.

However, I want to be clear. The EU list of tax havens is drawn up by the Member States. This list is not a legislative proposal from the Commission. Member States chose to work through the so-called Code of Conduct group, which is an intergovernmental body. And the Commission has been invited to provide technical support. The list that will be adopted next Tuesday will thus be the Member States' responsibility and it will be their credibility that is at stake.

On my side, I hope that the list of tax havens adopted by ECOFIN will be a meaningful and powerful response to the expectations raised by the many recent tax scandals.

While we are not quite yet at the end of the road, there has already been , and I want to insist on that, real progress as a result of this exercise:

Firstly, the Commission has provided the Member States with a common method. This was not a given. The first list the Commission published in June 2015 was imperfect. But it was a strong incentive. It was a mere synthesis of national lists, a medley, a best-of, and this patchwork of divergent national approaches has weakened EU global leadership. It showed the need for a single EU list, one that would clearly demonstrate that Europe, by sending a clear, unified message to the rest of the world, is at the forefront of tax reform and tax transparency.

Secondly, the Commission's expertise and the meticulous work carried out with Member States' tax experts have been recognised. In this intergovernmental process led by the Member States, the Commission has, I think, successfully charted its own path.

Thirdly, this new listing process has already, and that is something we need to underline from now, created a new constructive dynamic with third countries. These jurisdictions have now engaged in a dialogue with the EU; some of them have actually changed their legislation to align with our criteria of tax good governance; others will do so in the coming months and have committed to do so. This alone is a revolution. You don't have to look only at the list but first and foremost at the process and at the commitments that are taken. Dialogue and commitments are now replacing secrecy and opacity. I think that can be credited from now to the new listing process.

How to assess the final list?

Once the list is published next Tuesday, the Commission will give its views on the outcome. And I will, particularly, give mine.

So let me first outline the fundamental points that should be kept in mind in assessing the final list:

Firstly, the credibility of the list. More than the number or the names of listed countries. The list should reflect jurisdictions that do not strictly respect ALL the criteria agreed by Member States; as well as those jurisdictions that have not cooperated: if you are not fully cooperative in the listing process, you need to be on the list. No one would understand any political pressures or diplomatic games there. The listing process must be objective, must be serious, must be rigorous. That is what our citizens are expecting from us and any other behaviour would create disappointment and blame.

Secondly, I would like full transparency on the list of non-cooperative jurisdictions and on the positive commitments made by other jurisdictions. There will be a blacklist, but there will be a zone, I won't give a colour, that will need to be carefully watched. Citizens, media, national parliaments, the European Parliament, which I know is particularly active on that with the Tax committee and the PANA Committee, and NGOs should have access to these commitments, see the progress achieved and what remains to be done. We owe this transparency to the public opinions still under shock from the many tax scandals. A short blacklist would only be acceptable if accompanied by a substantial and public record of the commitments obtained. The Commission is willing to help here – to act as a "watchdog" to track how these commitments are being put into practice in 2018. Because again, I repeat that, the process is as important as the moment on the 5th of December. To make a commitment is one thing, to respect it is another! We need now to see what has really been done.

Thirdly, the definition of dissuasive measures against those who have not cooperated will be crucial. Without such sanctions, third countries will not have the incentives to engage more constructively with the EU in order to get out of the list. Because the target of the list is to get out of it. I urge Member States to agree on common national measures.

In any case, following legislative proposals from the Commission, there are now provisions enshrined in EU law triggering legal consequences for the listed third countries. The Commission will look into these provisions once the list is adopted.

Let me conclude by saying I count on Member States to adopt a meaningful, objective and transparent list, backed by a robust monitoring process as well as by dissuasive countermeasures to maintain pressure on third countries.

If this exercise is successful, it will represent a first but major step forward in our fight against tax havens, tax fraud, tax evasion and profit shifting. And we know that it is one of the major expectations from our citizens today.

The Commission and I, as a Commissioner, will remain vigilant throughout the whole process. The next ECOFIN meeting will be a key moment. So, having said that, see you on Tuesday at the ECOFIN.

Thank you.

SPEECH/17/5048

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