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EU struggles with corporate tax avoidance

Much like here at home in the UK, member states of the European Union can’t seem to get a handle on how to manage corporate tax avoidance.

It’s one thing to have MPs here at home argue for and against any number of tax avoidance measures to curb corporate tax dodgers.We’re used to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs talking big but then backing down at the last minute, instead leaving self-employed blokes like personal service company contractors and freelancers to shoulder the tax burden that should be rightfully laid at the feet of multinationals sheltering their taxable income in overseas havens.

Meanwhile, it turns out that things aren’t that different when it comes to the European Union, with EU ministers again talking a good game to curb corporate tax avoidance. Will this actually materialise into real change? Most likely not. I mean let’s just be honest here.

The big brouhaha at the moment is all about the Panama Papers, those cleverly leaked documents highlighting just how many massively rich corporations and individuals are making use of international tax shelters to avoid paying their fair share. Public outrage is high, and as a result everyone is clamouring for something, anything, to be done.

The leaked documents were called a “game changer” by Alexander Stubb, the Finnish finance minister. His French counterpart, Michel Sapin, likewise called the revelations “intolerable” for citizens of the EU. Yet at the same time German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble expressed his reluctance to sign on to a plan that would make large companies required to disclose their taxes paid and their profits made internationally, citing concerns about leaving companies and individuals on display in a “public pillory.”

Well you know what I say? Maybe dragging these bastards out into the light and forcing them to confront public scrutiny would be a good thing for once. Maybe it’s just me but I think we’ve all become too afraid of offending these big multinationals because they threaten to pull up their tent stakes and relocate offshore to countries with more amenable tax laws. That’s extortion, plain and simple, and it’s time we stood up to these companies – not to mention the finance ministers and other professional politicians that they have in their back pockets, constantly writing and passing legislation that benefits only the top income earners around the world instead of the rest of us. Change needs to happen, and not just here at home but in the EU, in the US, and around the damned world.

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