Taxation – Secret European ‘hit list’ denounced

A secret European list targeting ‘unfair’ tax breaks including UK relief for enterprise zones, film-makers and shipping companies has this week come under fire from tax advisers and Tory politicians.

EU finance ministers met on Tuesday to consider a list of reliefs which was compiled by a European code-of-conduct group, chaired by UK Paymaster General Dawn Primarolo.

The report, prepared in secret, originally identified 80 unfair taxes. In what appears to be a spoiling tactic, 100 new instances have been put forward by the Dutch government at the last minute.

As well as considering the menu for tax harmonisation, the ministers also considered the proposed savings directive, which has raised fears of a collapse in the London Eurobond market.

David Evans, international tax director for KPMG, said the code-of-conduct report was an ‘unwelcome development’ for European companies and their tax advisers.

‘Tax laws change, but because they’re doing it in secret, it is destabilising the corporate environment for companies that want to plan a longer term structure,’ he said.

Shadow chancellor Francis Maude said: ‘We are used to Labour raising taxes by stealth, but the European elections have clearly made them even more duplicitous than usual.’

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