The EU has this afternoon issued deeply disappointing new guidance on the laws it expects member states to put in place to tackle tax evasion and money laundering through the use of limited companies and trusts.
An EU study had suggested that the best way to ensure that companies and trusts could not be used for money laundering abuse and tax evasion of the ort my research and that of others has shown to be possible was to put on public record the true beneficial ownership of those companies and who stood to really benefit from the trusts. The same report also said this was the most cost effective way to deal with this issue.
The EU has rejected this advice. It is only requiring that a company must itself prove who owns it, which is absurd: if it is being used for criminal purpose this requirement will simply be ignored! To say that this utterly misses the point of the demand for information is to massively understate the degree by which the EU has missed the mark on this issue.
Worse still, it seems that the new rules will not provide any effective mechanism for tackling those who assist tax evasion by the provision of professional services to companies used for that purpose.
I'm left, as is so often the case now, asking the obvious question of why it is that governments are so reluctant to take on the issue of tackling crime when tax crime is one of the biggest crime activities there is (costing the EU states about €850 billion a year) and the implications of it are apparent to all of us as Europe continues to face austerity that would be unnecessary if only the taxes that are due were paid.
It's a great afternoon for tax evaders. It's bad for all the rest of us.