Tax evasion on May European Union summit agenda

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The fight against tax evasion will be on the agenda of the next European Union (EU) summit in May, EU president Herman Van Rompuy said on Friday.

"Every year a trillion euros are lost in tax evasion and tax avoidance" in Europe, Mr Van Rompuy said in a video message. "I have decided to put tax evasion on the agenda of the next May 22" summit.

Mr Van Rompuy, who chairs the talks between the bloc's 27 leaders, said the amount lost each year equalled the gross domestic product of Spain, the EU's fifth biggest economy, and was 100 times the size of the 10 billion euro (S$16 billion) bailout just agreed for Cyprus.

"Tax evasion is unfair to citizens" as well as to companies, Mr Van Rompuy said. "We simply cannot afford or tolerate tax complacency."

A renewed drive to stamp out tax fraud has launched in Europe amid a scandal embroiling French President Francois Hollande's government and is likely to figure prominently at talks in Dublin on Friday and Saturday between the EU's finance ministers.

Inspired by a 2010 US law requiring automatic reporting of bank account information, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain this week agreed to work on setting up a multilateral information exchange facility they hope will serve as a template for a wider system.

Also this week, Luxembourg finally agreed to relent in 2015 on its long opposition to the automatic exchange of banking data but Austria is refusing to change its controversial banking secrecy laws.

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