Might be difficult to believe, but when choosing topic to start my collaboration with this blog that I have been Reading for years (Thanks Miguel&Co for the opportunity!) I had clear the topic.
Yet digesting the outcome of EU elections results last weekend (how EU Commission will be settled is the biggest question), one thing is clear: there are two highly related "hot potatos" on the table that needed to be analyzed:
i) Swift for tax topic from current decision-making system (unanimity) into a Qualified Majority Vote – QMV);
ii) Modification of current Directive on Energy Taxation, more time pressed the EU in order to effectively tacking the Global Warming.
All of you that would know – even with not big detail – how EU decision making on tax matters works would recall that many tax developments are first blocked and then disregarded due to such unanimity need. Common (whether or not consolidated one) Tax Base for CIT or taxation on Digital Economy are two perfect examples. And many times is precisely is because reaching such unanimity is really complex and always any country (even the smallest) can understand that their particular interests are not aligned and thus to block the topic..
EU Commission is aware and that is that is why it was relaunched last January a project that allows tax matters to be approved following QMV system (they argue that is system used for all other matters).
Not willing to be excessively detailed on the proposal (as commented on link, 4 progressive phases, idea is that totally operative in 2025), now topic goes back on Energy Taxation: among first practical QMV approaches would be to use it to support "higher desirable aims"; and what is higher that actions to tackle Global Warming?
Two ideas to highlight:
i) Current Energy Tax Directive is in force since 2003 and it´s been unable to modify it (last try in 2011). Trends coming from US ("Carbon Tax") might made even more urgent/relevant to accelerate the process.
ii) In general terms, first approach would be to think that swifting into a QMV system is not feasible, as it requires both 28 (27?) EU parliaments and 28 Governments to approve Swift (first requirement at Parliament level made EU Constitution something long time ago forgotten…) and many news says such transition is directly not feasible.
And now is when things become really tricky: in a recent and really interesting article published some weeks ago by Pedro Gonzalez-Gaggero (sorry, just found in Spanish), author stated something that I personally discovered some months ago. That is, EU Tax Treaties contain some "back doors" that would make slightly easier the Swift into QMV system (still a complex matter) in the specific matter of QMV procedure related to environment-related topics. Technically speaking applying specific art. 192. TFEU on environment matters vs. general rules 48.7 TFEU. It is said that Juncker colloquially defines such possibility ("environment gateway") as "a brilliant hidden treasure on EU Treaties".
To sum up, those matters will be for sure on the spotlight and outcome might be not as clear as first thoughts might suggest. Seems that tax guys will continue enjoying for long exciting times on international tax!
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