EU to Consider Changes to Merger Rules to Prevent Tax Evasion

The European Commission will seek to review merger rules in 2013 in search of changes that could reduce tax evasion and fraud, according to an action plan released today.

The Brussels-based commission also will urge nations to adopt common anti-abuse standards to prevent companies from using an “artificial arrangement” to avoid taxes. Other recommendations call for new efforts to identify tax havens and to urge other nations to meet EU standards.

“Around one trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) is lost to tax evasion and avoidance every year in the EU,” EU Tax Commissioner Algirdas Semeta said today. The action plan, which will be presented to national finance ministers and the European Parliament, calls for “ways to address legal technicalities and loopholes which some companies exploit to avoid paying their fair share.”

Corporations including Starbucks, Inc. and Google Inc. have come under attack from British lawmakers and protestors for using complex accounting methods to minimize tax liabilities in the U.K. while running large operations in the country.

Starbucks Corp., the world’s biggest coffee-shop operator, has pledged to build public trust in the U.K. after lawmakers criticized the firm for not paying any corporation tax for the last three years. The firm is in talks with the U.K. Treasury over its tax affairs and will release details of the discussions this week, Starbucks said on Dec. 2 in an e-mailed statement.

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