Fair Taxation: EC proposes new tools to combat VAT fraud

1 Dec 2017 12:43 PM

The European Commission yesterday reveiled new tools to make the EU's Value Added Tax (VAT) system more fraud-proof and close loopholes which can lead to large-scale VAT fraud.

The new rules aim to build trust between Member States so that they can exchange more information and boost cooperation between national tax authorities and law enforcement authorities.

The most cautious estimates show that VAT fraud can lead to lost revenues of over €50 billion a year for EU Member States – money that should be going towards public investment in hospitals, schools and roads. Revelations in the ‘Paradise Papers' have again shown how tax avoidance schemes can be used to help wealthy individuals and companies to circumvent the EU's VAT rules to avoid paying their fair share of tax. Recent reports also suggest that VAT fraud schemes can be used to finance criminal organisations, including terrorists.

Yesterday's proposals would enable Member States to exchange more relevant information and to cooperate more closely in the fight against these activities.

Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, yesterday said: "Cross-border VAT fraud is a major cause of revenue loss for Member States and EU budgets. Today's proposal will help to strengthen the cooperation between institutions working nationally and at EU level in order to effectively tackle this problem and improve tax collection."

Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, yesterday said: "The Paradise Papers have again shown how some are taking advantage of lax application of EU VAT rules to get away with paying less VAT than others. And we know that VAT fraud can be a source of financing for criminal acts, including terrorism. Combating this requires far more effective information-sharing than currently exists between the competent national authorities – and today's proposals will make that happen. As an example, the EU's network of anti-fraud experts Eurofisc will have access to car registration data from other Member States, helping to cut off one major source of VAT fraud linked to new vs used car sales."

While the tax authorities of Member States already exchange some information on business and cross-border sales, this cooperation relies heavily on the manual processing of information. At the same time, VAT information and intelligence on organised gangs involved in the most serious cases of VAT fraud are not shared systematically with EU enforcement bodies. Finally, a lack of investigative coordination between tax administrations and law enforcement authorities at national and EU level mean that this fast-moving criminal activity is not currently tracked and tackled quickly enough.

Yesterday's proposals would strengthen cooperation between Member States, enabling them to tackle VAT fraud more quickly and more efficiently, including on fraud that takes place online. Taken together, the proposals would give a major boost to our ability to track and clamp down on fraudsters and criminals who steal tax revenues for their own gain.

Key measures in this legislation include:

These legislative proposals will now be submitted to the European Parliament for consultation and to the Council for adoption.


The proposed measures follow up on the 'cornerstones' for a new definitive single EU VAT area proposed in October 2017, and the VAT Action Plan towards a single EU VAT area presented in April 2016.

The common Value Added Tax (VAT) system plays an important role in Europe's Single Market. VAT is a major and growing source of revenue in the EU, raising over €1 trillion in 2015, which corresponds to 7% of EU GDP. One of the EU's own resources is also based on VAT.

Despite many reforms, the VAT system has been unable to keep pace with the challenges of today's global, digital and mobile economy. The current VAT system dates from 1993 and was intended to be a transitional system. It is fragmented and overly complex for the growing number of businesses operating cross-border and leaves the door open to fraud: domestic and cross-border transactions are treated differently and goods or services can be bought free of VAT within the Single Market. The Commission has consistently pressed for the reform of the VAT system. For companies trading across the EU, borders are still a fact of daily life when it comes to VAT. Current VAT rules are one of the last areas of EU law not in line with the principles underpinning the Single Market.

For More Information

Q&A on the proposed tools to combat VAT fraud

Full text of the proposal

Action Plan on VAT – Towards a single EU VAT area

Press release on reform of EU VAT rules

Q&A on reform of EU VAT rules

Factsheet on reform of EU VAT rules

Q&A on VAT for e-commerce

Press contacts:

General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email