European Union

Attacks Launched Against Tax Fraud

Funding government projects and other development initiatives carried out by any State has been principally through the payment of taxes by business operators into the national coffers. But the battle between those who own enterprises and the State in terms of how people pay taxes to government has been as old as humanity. With the advent of Information and Communication Technologies, ICTs, tactics keep changing on how to either avoid taxes or to track down cases of tax fraud.     Finance Ministers of the European Union have this month decided to accelerate plans to check against tax havens, that is, places where people seek to evade taxes by setting up business activities with the hope of making maximum profit while paying minimum taxes. This urgency came as a result of leaks in a German newspaper, Sueddeutsche Zeitung citing the “Paradise papers” and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The information talked of wealthy families and business holdings that have been depriving several European countries of income through tax evasion mechanisms that enable them create offshore companies with little worries over tax concerns.  The issues may not always be about malpractices in business transactions, but a question of looking for countries that offer better tax incentives to the detriment of countries where the companies were initially located. Discoveries made last week by the German newspaper follow similar reports last year in the “Panama Papers” still revealed by the ICIJ.  It prompted the European Union, EU, to start blacklisting countries considered as tax havens and which consequently posed problems to the EU economies. Apart from specific nations like Luxembourg, Malta and Ireland, the EU officials pointed out that 81 countries and jurisdictions had a higher chance of facilitating tax avoidance and could have been included in the blacklist if they did not cooperate. The 2016 findings by the EU were due for discussions by the end of the year in order to have a final decision taken on measures to oblige such countries to cooperate.     Some multinational companies were equally accused of slashing their tax bills and reducing revenues in EU States. Such a practice could, according to some experts, deprive EU countries of their economic livewire which is funds. The high rate of migration and the difficulties faced by the economies of most European countries have of late inflicted a heavy burden on development efforts in Europe. Understandably therefore, the EU had to include the subject of tax avoidance on the monthly agenda for November 2017 rather than wait for the end of the year as earlier planned. Talking about the “Paradise Papers”, the vice president of the EU’s executive arm, Valdis Dombrovskis, told reporters on Monday, 6 November, 2017 that the latest revelations “put renewed emphasis on the work the European Commission is doing to fight tax avoidance”.   

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