Statement on Financial Transaction Tax and Savings Directive

Algirdas Šemeta – Commissioner responsible for Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-fraud

ECON Committee (European Parliament)

Brussels, 14-11-2012 — / — Madam Chair, Honourable Members,

I am very happy to have the opportunity to continue our regular dialogue on taxation.

Nobody questions today that taxation is an inextricable part of the overall economic governance process of the EU. The Commission has tabled major proposals to strengthen the tax dimension of the Single market and ensure that tax policy contributes to smart growth.

So, we have the proposals. Now, it is time for action.

Tomorrow, EU finance ministers will discuss two important tax files: Savings and financial transaction tax. We should not only expect, but demand, quick progress on both, given the important contribution they can make to ensuring fair and sustainable revenues.

A brief word on savings. I cannot understand how anyone can make the consolidation efforts of Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and many other Member States even more difficult by blocking this file. Progressing in our negotiation with Switzerland and closing the loopholes in the savings directive is fair, necessary and urgent.

On three separate occasions this year, the European Council called for “rapid” progress on this file, recognising its significance in the fight against tax fraud and evasion. I would like all finance ministers to remember this in the course of the ECOFIN debate tomorrow.

Turning to the financial transaction tax, it is also important to move forward swiftly on this file. Let us not forget the strong public demand for this tax, nor the many benefits it has to offer once implemented.

After it was determined before the summer break, that no agreement was possible on our proposal for an FTT at 27, we received letters from 11 Member States for the launch of an enhanced cooperation procedure. The requests clearly specify that the objectives and scope of the initiative should be based on the Commission’s initial proposal.

We have carefully analysed the extent to which those requests comply with the conditions foreseen in the Treaty. The answer is unequivocally positive: they do.

Accordingly, we tabled a proposal for a Council decision to authorise enhanced cooperation in the area of FTT.

There is no question that going ahead with the FTT file through enhanced cooperation is fully justified, but also strongly grounded and legally compliant.

The Commission could not find a single incidence of non-compliance with Treaty provisions:

  • Harmonisation of indirect taxation is an area covered by the Treaty which does not belong to the exclusive competences of the Union. And following an intensive discussion in the Council, it is clear that enhanced cooperation is a last resort solution to progress;
  • Harmonising a patchwork of different national taxes will not undermine the internal market. On the contrary, it will strengthen it by creating more coherence and less administrative burden for businesses. Nor will this procedure constitute a barrier to trade between Member States or distort competition between them;
  • And finally, the procedure respects the rights, competences and obligations of non-participating Member States. They remain free to define and modify their own approach to financial sector taxation any time they want to.

As you know, over the coming weeks, starting tomorrow, the Council will discuss the Decision to authorise enhanced cooperation on the FTT.

No time should be lost in completing this procedural step, so that the real discussion on the substance can start.

For my part, I will speed up the Commission’s work on the substantive proposal, so that negotiations between the 11 Member States can start immediately after the authorisation is granted.

I can already confirm that this proposal will be largely based on the initial Commission proposal adopted last year. The position of the European Parliament, and your comments today, will of course be carefully considered.

I am mindful also of the fact that some have raised questions about the possible economic effects of the FTT implemented by less than 27 Member States. As you know, the Commission carried out an in-depth analysis to support its initial proposal. It will be further developed in selected areas which are relevant in the context of enhanced cooperation, for example, in updating the revenue estimates.

Madam Chair,

I would like to congratulate your committee for its positive attitude and swift work on this file.

I understand that the ECON Committee did everything it could to ensure a plenary debate on the consent procedure for enhanced cooperation as early as December this year.

I thank you for this very constructive contribution to the progress on this file.

And I am sure that I can continue to count on your support in the next steps towards an effective implementation of the financial transaction tax.




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