Friday 16 November 2018

Austria defies critics and pushes EU digital tax plan

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Photo: AP
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Photo: AP

Boris Groendahl

Austria is seeking to present a proposal for a European Union tax on the revenue of tech giants by next month, in a move intended to raise the pressure on the bloc's member states to come to an agreement over the controversial plans.

The Irish Government is one of a number opposed to the plan.

Austria, which holds the rotating six-month presidency of the EU, wants to finalise draft legislation aimed at ensuring technology multinationals pay their fair share in taxes ahead of a meeting of finance ministers on November 6, according to an official with knowledge of the preparations.

The text of the directive would be ready for a decision in that meeting already, allowing ministers to focus on reaching agreement only on the most controversial political issues of the proposal in November, said the official, who asked not to be identified in line with policy.

France is leading a push for the introduction of an EU tax on revenues of tech giants such as Amazon and Facebook even before the world's other developed economies can agree on a global system.

Austria has moved the issue to the top of its agenda for the EU presidency, which Chancellor Sebastian Kurz underscored in Brussels yesterday.

"Internet giants currently aren't fairly taxed in Europe," Mr Kurz told reporters. "We support the commission's proposal and demand the introduction of an EU digital tax for internet giants."

Some EU governments, however, are concerned that pushing ahead with such a levy - which would target some of the biggest US companies - could exacerbate transatlantic tensions.

They would prefer to wait for an international approach rather than back an EU-only plan. Tax proposals need the unanimous approval of all EU members before becoming law.

The EU Commission presented a proposal in March for a targeted 3pc levy on sales, which would increase the tax bill on large tech companies.

The commission also put forward a longer-term approach that would entitle countries to tax revenue made in their territory even if the firm doesn't have a physical presence there.

In an effort to assuage concerns by countries including Ireland over the wisdom of the bloc going it alone given the global nature of digital services, France suggested adding a 'sunset' clause that would allow the commission's planned revenue tax to be automatically phased out once a global scheme is ready.

Bloomberg

Irish Independent

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business