Later today the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Tax Rulings and other Measures Similar in Nature or Effect (TAXE) will finally have the opportunity to meet with a group of multinationals of its choice. Already months ago TAXE invited these multinationals to be present during one of TAXE’s earlier hearings. Then the multinationals kindly declined. Several members of TAXE have repeatedly expressed how annoyed they were that the multinationals dared to decline an invitation to be present at a hearing of the mighty European Parliament. Some of TAXE's members even suggested (or is threatened a better word?) that the declining multinationals somehow should be punished.

 

Those who have read my previous column on TAXE will know that I am not too impressed by the work the TAXE committee has done so far. And after following the early TAXE’s meetings, I would have been surprised if the multinationals had accepted TAXE’s initial invitation. Somehow from the beginning, the discussions in TAXE have given me the impression that a majority of the members of the committee has never been interested in getting a real understanding of what is actually going on in the world of international taxation. I fear that, although not being specialists in international taxation, many members of the TAXE committee had already made up their mind before they even joined TAXE. That in their views multinationals are the evil forces of society. Evil forces that are being helped by evil governments and that obviously being the governments from small countries like the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland and Switzerland. And all that at the cost of the poor victims: being countries like the UK, France, Spain and Portugal. In the view of many committee members the only solution to stop these evil multinationals and evil governments join forces at the expense of large economies is to introduce a CCCTB.

 

The workspace I from time to time share with my 5-year-old daughter. I myself was surprised to find out how many products of multinationals attending the November 16th meeting I use for my work, or that for any other reason were laying within an arm's length.

 

Therefore I have always doubted the real reasons for the TAXE committee to invite these multinationals to attend its hearings. Were these multinationals invited because the committee really wants to get a(n) (better) understanding about international taxation? Or is it because the committee wants to organize its own roast of multinationals and by doing so create its own 5 minutes of fame?

 

The late developments have not made me less skeptical. When sending out the second round of invitations TAXE issued a press release titled “Tax rulings MEPs to multinationals: "One more chance to contribute to our work"”. Later on in that press release the following is stated: “A draft report by Elisa Ferreira (S&D, PT) and Michael Theurer (ALDE; DE) will be put to a vote by the Tax Rulings Committee in Strasbourg on 26 October, then by Parliament as a whole at its November II session. This would allow amendments to be tabled, as a result of the 16 November meeting, before the plenary vote.” However, last week TAXE already published its report (dated November 5, 2015). TAXE on its website calls the report “Committee report tabled for plenary, single reading”. That makes one, or at least me, wonder how open TAXE will be for the input provided by multinationals?

 

So for me the question is: Are we going to witness a roast of multinationals? Or is TAXE finally going to be able to surprise me and it will be a real discussion in which the members of the TAXE committee will be actually open for the input provided by multinationals?

 

For those interested in following the meeting, according to the European Parliament a live broadcast of TAXE’s meeting with multinationals will be available here.

 

 

Alain

 

 

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