The Eurocrats have been bitten by the fair tax bug! That’s my main take-away from the EC’s Tax Fairness Conference which took place on 28 and 29 June 2017. A colourful line-up of policy makers, economists, philosophers, business and campaigners provided two days of presentations and debate. We didn’t quite find the definite meaning of ‘fair’, but – to borrow that lamest of clichés – we sure as hell were confused at a higher level. (Tax lawyers were conspicuously absent, by the way, the consensus being that “technique is easy, it’s the politics that are hard”. A sobering thought for us tax practitioners and specialists in positive fiscal law).
Video’s of all sessions are available here.
Making the tax systems of the EU Member States fairer is currently an EC imperative. According to a recent study, 84% of Europeans believe that there are large inequalities within the EU (this is a bad thing). 74% want the EU to do more to fight tax fraud. And this is not just about BEPS. Other areas of tax law and policy – e.g. tax and climate change, VAT reform, tax and intergenerational fairness – are at least as relevant.” The political landscape is only one of the parameters we have to consider. The world is changing fast, and we, as policymakers, we have to adapt even faster,” said Commissioner Moscovici in his conference speech.
Being a sucker for the European ideal, I obviously lapped up the fiscal Kool-Aid like a dehydrated sponge. But not everyone was impressed. “Oh, but I’ve heard it all before,” one of the participants told me over lunch, adding one of those annoying Gallic shrugs. “Whatever,” I said with Low Countries directness, “I do think this is important”. You see, for me, it was an eye-opener to find the familiar BEPS-topics being discussed from a totally different (that is: non-lawyer) vantage point. It was interesting and exciting and I find that I am 100% with the 74%. Wouldn’t it be great if we actually could make the EU tax systems work for the many, not just the few? I trundled out of Brussels practically singing the Red Flag (this is a good thing). Which doesn’t happen often.
DG TAXUD, please don’t let us down.