Sven Giegold
Member of the European Parliament – Greens/EFA Group

Speaker of the German Green Delegation

Business taxation: Commission is strong on proposals, weak in willingness to enforce them

Today, 18 May, the Commission presents its plans for modernising corporate taxation in Europe. The declared goal: making business taxation fit for the 21st century, especially with regards to the digitalisation and the globalisation of the economy. Likewise, taxes should be used to curb greenhouse gas emissions and conserve natural resources. The Commission pledges to tackle tax evasion and avoidance with a series of legislative proposals and recognises the need for fair and effective taxation of capital income of both individuals and corporations. For example, in 2022, EU Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni plans to present, among others, a legislative proposal for the publication of effective tax rates paid by large companies. With the introduction of public country-by-country reporting, the public would thus have two important sources of information on the contribution large companies make to the public purse. In addition, the Commission intends to present a proposal by the end of this year to prevent the abuse of shell companies for tax purposes.

In the longer term, a uniform legal framework for the taxation of companies throughout Europe is to be created. Here, the Commission is presenting a new plan for a common consolidated corporate tax base under a different name (BEFIT), with a new methodology for allocating taxing rights between Member States. In addition, the Commission holds out the prospect of introducing a digital levy as well as a minimum tax, closely linked to the ongoing negotiations on corporate tax reform in the OECD. However, the Commission is also planning a so-called “Debt Equity Bias Reduction Allowance”. This is intended to compensate for the tax disadvantage of equity costs compared to interest as the cost of debt. The Commission argues that this would eliminate tax incentives in favour of debt financing. However, this proposal carries the risk of considerable tax revenue shortfalls.

MEP Sven Giegold, financial and economic policy spokesperson of the Greens/EFA group commented:

The EU Commission has presented an ambitious plan for fair and effective corporate taxation in Europe. The proposals are good, but a plan for enforcement is lacking. Plans for more tax justice are worth very little if they can be blocked by individual tax havens with a simple veto. These are bold proposals which suffer from a lack of courage in their enforcement. The EU Commission must go beyond the unanimity principle in tax matters. The proposal for a common consolidated corporate tax base has been blocked by individual Member States for ten years. For years now, Member States have blocked important tax reforms in VAT and corporate taxation. A pushback from the European Commission and the aggrieved Member States is sorely lacking.

In the wake of the Corona crisis, public coffers are empty. We cannot afford to delay necessary reforms any longer. The Commission must now move swiftly to apply Article 116 of the EU Treaty. Article 116 is designed to protect the integrity of the internal market. The far-reaching tax breaks for Amazon, Apple and Co. represent a massive distortion of competition in the European single market. As guardian of the treaties, the EU Commission can no longer accept this deplorable state of affairs.

Europe also needs an ambitious agreement at the OECD. There is still no clear commitment from Member States to support Joe Biden’s proposal for an effective minimum tax rate of 21 percent. Germany and France must throw their weight behind this progressive proposal for a  21% effective minimum tax now.

In times of empty coffers, it is not justifiable to give tax gifts to large companies. The Commission’s plan to promote equity financing for companies makes economic sense. We can only afford such plans if at the same time we actually adopt effective measures against aggressive tax avoidance. Under no circumstances should an expensive tax giveaway for large companies be decided without simultaneously launching a common consolidated corporate tax base.”  

The Commission’s plan is available here: https://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/sites/taxation/files/communication_on_business_taxation_for_the_21st_century.pdf

My opinion piece against tax dumping and for a strong transatlantic alliance for progressive corporate taxation: https://sven-giegold.de/en/tax-dumping-biden-deserves-full-support/ 

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