Meeting the EU’s Tax Commissioner
Sep 2012 19

Last Monday myself and Matthew Elliott, along with Dan Mitchell from the Cato Institute in Washington DC and Zilvinas Silenas and Kaetana Leontjeva from the Lithuanian Free Market Institute, ventured into the European Commission’s headquarters in Brussels. We were there to meet Algirdas Šemeta, the Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud, and discuss European Union proposals to introduce a new tax and harmonise existing business taxes.

The arguments that the Commissioner used to justify a Financial Transaction Tax were actually remarkably similar to those deployed by movie star Bill Nighy. My article here, with a video of our debate on the issue for Channel 4 News, is still a good summary of the state of the debate. We looked at it in more detail in Sections 5.1.3 and 6.1.3 of the Single Income Tax Report. I remain convinced that this tax would be yet another unwarranted burden on savers and reduce people’s wages. It would hurt Britain’s economy in particular and we shouldn’t put up with that any more than the French would put up with a European tax on red wine or the Germans would put up with a European tax on luxury saloons.

The other issue that we discussed was the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB). He tried to sell the idea as a simple means of making it easier for big companies to do business across Europe. And that any attempt to apply a common rate and establish a tax cartel that would see all of us paying more over time could be blocked as European Union policy on tax remains subject to national vetoes. Unfortunately what a CCCTB would do is cement in place the existing structure of taxes on capital income and make it much harder to introduce the kind of innovative new system proposed by the 2020 Tax Commission. Any change in response to changing circumstances would be subject to veto and it is easy to imagine that, as that became more and more of a handicap, the pressure for a more “efficient” system where a single country couldn’t hold up reforms would mean pressure to get rid of that veto. In the end, the ratchet would have moved forward and we would be a bit closer to being taxed by Brussels rather than governments in Westminster that we can, at least, boot out of office.

I’m not sure if we sowed any seeds of doubt in the Commissioner’s mind. He did say that it was “pleasant to get into a debate with people who have a very clear vision and philosophy” but I’m not expecting a sudden conversion to our cause. And I am certainly not won over by the European Union. While I was there I visited the Parliamentarium for a reminder of just how egregiously your money is wasted in Brussels, and the city always renews my euroscepticism. But at least we could leave the Commissioner with a copy of the 2020 Tax Commission’s final Single Income Tax report. Hopefully he will read it.

Matthew was the Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, author of Let Them Eat Carbon and editor of How to Cut Public Spending (and still win an election)

  • Wilcox

    don’t waste your breath in Brussels – they have ears but they don’t listen to anything other than increasing ways to drive the federalist idea!

  • Eeyore

    Dialogue of the deaf if ever I heard one – each trying to persuade the other to his own, diametrically opposed, view. With the EU, the only way is out.

  • Les Cooper

    Can’t condemn trying to create dialogue, but it is almost impossible when confronted by a ‘stubborn mule’ attitude. Stance of politicians from main parties in this country is the same, hence the mess we are in.

  • wibbling

    Sir, he knows you’re powerless and that he will get whatever he wants regardless.

    Taxes will go up unless we take action to prevent it. At the moment, given the arrogance of the political class that is only going to happen through open rebellion.

  • Penfold

    I am going to be very classical and cite the following:-
    “These people are a warning of what happens to any state which has a permanent staff of officials. They begin as our servants and end up imagining themselves our masters”
    Cicero-Re complaint of the Lictors
    What did you really expect of an apparatchik? apologies, ashes, resignation letter, promises to reduce red tape and interference and taxes.
    We will never be free of EU bungling and expense until we gain proper control of the beast. At present it is run by a coterie of like minded lefties hell bent on obtaining their outcome and prepared to resort to stealth and mendacity.

  • Kim

    “pleasant to get into a debate with people who have a very clear vision and philosophy” , I bet! These people need to be continually challenged and “their vision ” for a single Europe scrutinized. Well done Matt and the team for taking our fight to them.

  • SnoddersB

    You don’t actually expect any of the unelected dumbos to read anything that has any reason attatched to it do you? All they do is to demand, mor money, and dictate how I should behave in my own country.

  • Hardeep_Singh

    Well done for venturing into the lion’s den, at least someone (in the form of the TPA) are batting for Britain.