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Benelux Focuses On Strengthened Tax Cooperation

Friday, November 29, 2013

On the recommendation of Dutch Financial State Secretary Frans Weekers, the Benelux countries of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, intend to initiate a structured ministerial consultation shortly, aimed at strengthening combined efforts to clamp down on tax evasion and tax fraud within the region.

The announcement followed a meeting between Dutch Financial State Secretary Weekers and Belgian State Secretary Crombez. Here, the talks focussed on increasing cooperation between the Netherlands and Belgium in the fight against tax evasion, and intensifying and extending this fiscal collaboration within the Benelux Union.

The objective of the ministerial consultation is to reach an agreement on an increased, faster, and more efficient exchange of tax information between the tax authorities of the member states, and to improve intelligence. This includes the collection, management, and linking of data, as well as the development of risk and analysis models. The measures are to cover indirect tax, such as value-added tax (VAT); direct taxes, including income tax; and the recovery of tax debt.

Further, the ministers aim to achieve a consensus on the priorities for combating tax fraud.

In addition, the upcoming discussions in the Benelux Union will center on strengthening existing direct cross-border cooperation and collaboration between the tax authorities of the Netherlands and Belgium, and on involving Luxembourg in this partnership. Given that Luxembourg has agreed to exchange bank information automatically from January 1, 2015, there should no longer be any obstacles to intensifying fiscal cooperation with the Grand Duchy, Weekers made clear.

Highlighting the fact that the Netherlands is to assume the presidency of the Benelux Union from January 1, 2014, Financial State Secretary Weekers emphasized that this is a "good opportunity" to place a tough approach to fraud within the Benelux region at the top of the agenda.

Stressing that "the ambition" is to facilitate and speed up information exchange between the special anti-tax fraud authorities of the Benelux countries, Weekers insisted that this "is essential" for an effective approach to cross-border tax evasion.

Concluding, Weekers pointed out that the tax cooperation within the Benelux Union could serve as a testing ground for cooperation within the European Union. Given the region's experiences, Benelux countries could "play a pioneering role for the rest of Europe," Weekers ended.