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EU ministers propose 'urgent' measures after Panama scandal

Eurogroup head and holder of the EU's rotating presidency, Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Saturday there was increasing urgency for EU ministers to act on tax evasion
Eurogroup head and holder of the EU's rotating presidency, Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Saturday there was increasing urgency for EU ministers to act on tax evasion Reuters/Yves Herman

European Union finance ministers endorsed a series of measures on Saturday to fight tax evading methods used by Europeans exposed by the Panama Papers scandal.According to Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the finance minister from the Netherlands who is both the head of the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers and the holder of the EU's rotating presidency, there is increasing urgency to fight tax evasion.

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"We've been (so) very busy competing with each other ... that big companies tend not to pay taxes," said Dijsselbloem on the second day of talks in Amsterdam, adding that the EU's 28 member governments are "very committed to close the gaps".

Among the measures, the EU will propose a joint list of tax havens to expose jurisdictions used by European individuals and companies to evade or minimise taxes.

"There is unanimous support that Europe create its own list of tax havens by this summer," said European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici. This could prove difficult, however, with EU countries already having individual lists based on highly different criteria.

The ministers also backed a proposal by the EU's top powers to automatically exchange data in order to expose the real owners of shell companies.

Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain unveiled the measure at G20 talks in Washington last week.

"There is an assumed and converging willingness to fight any anonymous mechanisms" that aid tax evasion and money laundering, said French Finance Minister Michel Sapin.

The EU member countries will also launch talks next week on new rules requiring big companies operating in Europe to make public what they earn in each member state of the 28-nation bloc, Dijsselbloem said.

Country-by-country reporting has for years been a major demand of tax activists who accuse big corporations of secretly shifting profits to low-tax jurisdictions, often through the use of shell companies.

EU governments are divided on the proposal, with some arguing that sensitive corporate data should remain exclusive to tax authorities and not made public.

- with AFP

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