European Parliament in Brussels

How tax justice finally came to dominate the European Parliament

There are a few issues that we already know will come to define the eighth term of the European Parliament: the Brexit vote, the refugee crisis and tax evasion.

Whereas few would have predicted the Syrian civil war or the outcome of the UK’s EU referendum ten years ago, it was already common knowledge back then that many large multinational corporations and a clique of wealthy individuals were not paying their fair share of tax.

So why did tax suddenly become such a hot topic?

We in the S&D Group have been fighting tooth and nail — against stiff opposition — to put tax justice and action to stamp out corruption , tax fraud, tax evasion and tax havens at the heart of the European Parliament’s agenda. It was thanks to us that in 2012 independent research was done to estimate the amount of money lost in the EU because of these immoral tax practices: the astonishing sum of €1 trillion per year. That’s the equivalent of taking €2,000 per European citizen from our communal coffers every year!

In the past three years a series of leaks have made the news and helped us in our struggle to put the EU spotlight on tax justice. It started with the Offshore leaks in 2013, which were soon followed by LuxLeaks in 2014, SwissLeaks in 2015, the Panama Papers from early 2016 and, most recently, the Bahamas leaks.

A global network of investigative journalists has been making sure the content of these leaks has reached citizens all over Europe and the world. The network is called the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and had more than 400 journalists from over 80 countries working on the astounding 2.6 terabytes of documents leaked from the Panama-based firm Mossack Fonseca. These Panama papers reveal how the firm aided mafia groups, heads of state, celebrities and thousands of companies from all over the world to avoid or evade tax and launder money.

The world-wide response to the injustices exposed in these leaks has been outrage. At the S&D Group we want this anger to lead to action. Our political opponents have responded with passivity and resignation for too long and these leaks show the urgent need to act.

That is why we took a leading role in the creation of the TAXE and TAXE2 committees on tax rulings to investigate the practices revealed in the Lux- and SwissLeaks scandals and they are now a driving force behind the newly formed PANA committee of inquiry on money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion.

The PANA committee will be requesting and scrutinising confidential information and taking evidence from the journalists involved in investigating the leaked documents, the big accountancy firms, finance ministers, national financial authorities and experts. We the S&Ds will be making sure that the committee report at the end of the 12-month mandate clearly shows what is not working and what we can do together in the EU to fix it.

This blog is a platform where our MEPs can share their experiences from the PANA committee so that everyone can follow the important work that they do there. After all, transparency is key to achieving both tax justice and inclusive policy-making… and we at the S&D Group think it is best to lead by example!

PS. If you want to track the status of our demands in our fight for tax justice, make sure to check out our #TaxJustice initiative here and follow as we are turning red lights to green and step by step achieving our vision of a fairer society.