EU finance ministers have agreed plans to share tax information in a bid to crack down on tax evasion and fraud.
Ministers approved a draft directive that will prevent a member state from refusing to supply information concerning a taxpayer from another member state on the sole grounds that the information is held by a bank or other financial institution.
Member states have been at odds over how much tax information they should exchange automatically, with Austria and Luxembourg wary of any plans that would impinge on their banking secrecy.
The directive is to include safeguards to prevent member states making imprecise requests, or “fishing expeditions”, in which countries try to discover any information that may be available.
Meeting in Brussels this morning (7 December), finance ministers agreed certain details that must be specified in requests for information, namely the identity of the person under investigation and the purpose for which the information is sought.
Member states agreed on a step-by-step approach aimed at eventually ensuring unconditional exchange of information for eight categories of income and capital.
From 2015, member states will communicate automatically information in a maximum of five categories, provided that the information is readily available. They will, however, not be required to send more information than they receive in return.
By 1 July 2017, the European Commission will examine the possibilities for removing the condition of availability and extending the number of categories from five to eight.
The directive will be adopted at a forthcoming Council of Ministers’ meeting, once the text has been finalised.
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