EU power grab begins as Commission adopts plan for bloc-wide corporate tax rulebook

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The new proposal will aim to prevent individual member countries from competing with each other to offer private deals to big companies that could allow them some form of tax avoidance. The initiative has been dubbed the Business in Europe: Framework for Income Taxation bill (BEFIT) and could come into force in 2023. However, there has been scepticism over the plan already as the Commission has failed in similar plans twice in the past 10 years.

Paolo Gentiloni, European Commissioner for the economy, did not seem deterred as he announced the bloc’s plan to “rethink taxation”.

He said in a statement today: “It’s time to rethink taxation in Europe.

“As our economies transition to a new growth model… so too must our tax systems adapt to the priorities of the 21st century.”

The new BEFIT initiative would also be able to access a company’s profits and losses across the whole bloc.

It would then add up these figures to produce a net profit that would be distributed to all 27 countries.

However, the new plan would disrupt the EU’s current rules, which allow companies to move their profits to other countries that have low tax rates, such as Ireland or Malta.

BEFIT would also be a similar plan used by global policymakers at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The Commission is said to be planning to use the OECD deal as a way to gain more unified rules for business taxation across the EU, according to POLITICO.

It comes as the OECD is set to agree in June on new global rules on where to tax large multinational corporations like Google, Amazon or Facebook, and at what effective minimum rate.

The OECD wants to stop governments from cutting tax rates competitively to get more investment.

Instead, policymakers would rather create a way to get tax profits in countries where the customers are, rather than where a company sets up its office for tax purposes.

EuroCommerce, which represents Europe’s retail and wholesale sectors, welcomed the EU’s plan by saying different tax rules are a huge cost barrier across the bloc’s single market.

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It said: “The digital transformation of our ecosystem, and of the economy as a whole, needs a tax system which matches it.”

The Commission’s plan will now go to member states and EU lawmakers for approval.

However, the Commission first proposed a common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB) in 2011, which was not approved.

A second similar plan in 2016 also failed after being proposed following a wave of anti-tax avoidance crackdowns at the time.

The Commission also accused Apple of getting up to €13 billion in illegal tax breaks from Dublin.

But the General Court ruled last July that the Commission was wrong, although this decision is now subject to appeal.

In the past, Ireland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Malta, Sweden and the Netherlands have been among the countries that showed opposition to the tax initiatives.

Tove Ryding, tax coordinator at the NGO the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad), warned they could also feel the same way about the BEFIT.

He said: “It will be difficult to reach consensus among EU member states. There are still EU member states such as Luxembourg, Ireland and Malta, which hold on to tax structures that facilitate corporate tax avoidance and strongly oppose ambitious reforms.”

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