Update: here’s our research director Alex Cobham’s interview with Share Radio which goes through the key points.
On this quiet August day, the US Treasury has fired the first shots of a tax war with Europe. And while it’s wrapped up in a claim to defend international tax cooperation, it looks more like an attempt to prevent an effective measure against international tax-dodging – carried out, not least, by US companies. At the same time, the US continues as the leading hold-out against the automatic exchange of individuals’ financial information; and to resist the growing tide of public registers of the beneficial ownership of companies. The stage is set for a prolonged battle.
By publishing a white paper titled ‘THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION’S RECENT STATE AID INVESTIGATIONS OF TRANSFER PRICING RULINGS’ (h/t @RichardRubinDC), the US has signalled an end to a period of quiet tension. This long post considers why this matters; then sets out the main contents of the white paper; before concluding with an assessment of what is possible in the ensuing hostilities.
We explore the white paper’s main points below, but note first its significance. For one thing, it confirms just how bad relationships between the US and the Commission have become on the subject of corporate tax. The white paper is the opposite of gentle diplomacy – and quite close, in parts, to an outright threat.
It cites one player in the spreading game:
“It’s going nuts. Everyone is doing it or looking into it,” says a tax consultant, speaking of the American loophole.”
The European Commission has announced:
“The European Commission has today opened up a new chapter in its campaign for fair, efficient and growth-friendly taxation in the EU with new proposals to tackle corporate tax avoidance. The Anti Tax Avoidance Package calls on Member States to take a stronger and more coordinated stance against companies that seek to avoid paying their fair share of tax and to implement the international standards against base erosion and profit shifting.”
TJN has found the proposals disappointing, to say the least. A TJN statement follows.
Update 2: with a report on the demonstration in Luxemburger Wort, which in contrast to our earlier experiences of Luxembourg media, was quite balanced.
Update1 : with a photo (below) of today’s protest in Luxembourg. Some 50-60 people are reckoned to have attended, a good turnout in tiny, financially captured Luxembourg.
The Dodgy Duchy of Luxembourg, like many small secrecy jurisdictions, can be a nasty place to protest against offshore finance. The sector has its tentacles in the courts, in government: everywhere. The media there is, in our experience, all but captured too, so Luxembourg’s citizenry has a poor record in terms of questioning or challenging the corrupt status quo. To oppose offshore finance can be to risk social censure or — in the case of Antoine Deltour, Edouard Perrin, Dénis Robert, and a number of other whistleblowers — a vicious, personalised attack from the offshore establishment, often led by the Big Four accounting firms such as PWC, which effectively write relevant parts of the Luxembourg legislation. It is a haven for hire.
This newly published report is the outcome of a Tax and Transparency Fact-finding Mission carried out by a delegation of independent experts from Asia, Africa and Latin America in October and November 2013, based on visits to Switzerland, France, Norway, United Nations, The OECD, and the European Commission. See a Spanish version here.