Pierre Moscovici is a name well-known to many across Europe,
having been French Finance Minister between May 2012 and April
2014; an experience which has doubtless stood him in good stead
for the role he now holds. But there are sure to be testing
times ahead as he widens his remit to cover the whole of the
EU. Any move that involves going from a role where policy- and
decision-making impacts 66 million people to one that impacts
roughly 10 times that many, at more than 500 million, is bound
to bring new challenges.
is a new entry this year
To add to the pressure, the Frenchman has big shoes to fill
in the shape of the now-departed Lithuanian Algirdas Semeta, a
three-time Global Tax 50 entrant. But Moscovici already has
clear priorities in place. The newly-appointed Commissioner
talks to International Tax Review's Matthew Gilleard
about harmonisation efforts, the lessons he learnt during his
time as French Finance Minister, and the role of tax in
promoting growth and employment across Europe.
International Tax Review: Firstly, Commissioner,
congratulations on your appointment and welcome to your new
role. Can you talk me through the priorities for your tenure as
European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs,
Taxation and Customs?
Pierre Moscovici: In the area of taxation
and customs, my priorities are clear: to boost growth and
employment in Europe, we need a single market that works well.
The economic and social goals we want to achieve require
efficient and fair taxation. That's why we need to fight tax
fraud, tax evasion and aggressive tax planning. We need to
close existing loopholes and ensure transparency and the
automatic exchange of information. The financial transaction
tax (FTT) and the common consolidated corporate tax base
(CCCTB) are at the top of my agenda, together with the fight
against tax fraud and the automatic exchange of information on
tax rulings, on which we will come forward with a proposal
early in the New Year.
But there are also other concrete examples of what we can do
to achieve our goals, such as closing the loopholes in the
Parent Subsidiary Directive, putting forward a proposal in 2015
for a long-awaited definitive VAT regime and putting in place
the Union's new customs code by May 2016.
ITR: How has your experience at national level, as
Minister of Finance, helped to prepare you for this role? In
what ways are you expecting the role to differ and throw up new
PM: My experience as Minister of Finance
has indeed been useful to help me prepare to become
Commissioner. From May 2012 to April 2014, together with my
European colleagues, I contributed to promoting the agenda for
economic growth and structural reforms in Europe. I was active
in the creation of the banking union, in promoting financial
stability, in fighting against tax fraud and tax evasion, and
in preserving the integrity of the eurozone.
In fact, most of my professional life has been oriented
towards Europe, thus providing me with comprehensive knowledge
of how the EU operates and how its functioning can be improved.
Taking up the role of Commissioner is in line with my
two-decades-long commitment to contribute to a better
The experience of being Commissioner, however, differs in
many ways from that of being a Minister of Finance. I am proud
to now serve the European general interest within the college
of commissioners led by Jean-Claude Juncker. I will be acting
on behalf of all 28 member states, defending a global vision,
in an impartial manner.
My portfolios of economic and financial affairs and taxation
are central to our desire to relaunch Europe towards growth,
jobs, investment and competitiveness. Encouraging structural
reforms and growth-friendly, credible fiscal policies, and
designing a fairer and more transparent tax environment in
Europe are among the first major challenges I will be working
on. I will be fully engaged in this thrilling mission during
the coming five years, and I am looking forward to helping
deliver the results our citizens demand and deserve.
ITR: What do you consider to have been your
biggest influence on tax during your time as French Finance
PM: The fight against tax fraud and tax
evasion was always one of my top priorities during my time as
French Finance Minister. I gave a political impulse to these
challenges by launching concrete initiatives against aggressive
tax planning and in favour of better tax transparency in
Within the G20, I called for a reinforcement of tax
cooperation and promoted automatic exchange of information as a
global standard. I defended a reinforced approach against tax
havens, and acted towards the adoption of the FTT. A concrete
achievement I am proud of is the law concerning the fight
against tax fraud and economic and financial crimes, adopted in
France in December 2013, which strengthened France's capacity
to address tax fraud issues.
Europeans will no longer accept financial opacity, banking
secrecy, tax fraud and corporate tax avoidance. These are key
issues both for economic efficiency and fairness raisons. I am
convinced that it is time for the European Commission to start
a new era in these matters, both within the EU and in our
international relations. As Commissioner, I will be an
outspoken advocate of better regulation in the field of
ITR: During your time in government, you were
pro-harmonisation, spearheading various initiatives alongside
your German counterpart. Your statements of intent regarding
FTT and CCCTB suggest you are looking to take this
harmonisation theme forward as Commissioner – how
confident are you of making significant progress in these
areas? With the FTT going ahead under enhanced cooperation (and
reports of smaller member states leveraging the bargaining
power of the proposal teetering on the edge of the required
number of states following Slovenia's departure), how will you
ensure it keeps moving forward?
PM: I strongly support the 11 member states
that have decided to create an FTT through enhanced
cooperation. The Commission stands ready to provide them with
technical support in designing the tax. Clearly, there are
different views among member states regarding the scope of the
first step and the application of the principle for the
determination of the country that has the right to tax. Once
these essential elements are agreed upon, we can further work
on its practical implementation, such as on how to collect the
tax, for which information technology, verification and
administrative cooperation structures are needed.
To assist in such work, the Commission has contracted out a
study that looks into tax collection issues and how to overcome
the challenges of implementing such a broad-based framework for
taxation. Member states should not miss the potential revenue
from a harmonised FTT and I believe this tax can be introduced
as from 2016.
As regards the proposal for a CCCTB, I believe new impulse
should be given to the debate in the Council. This initiative
can provide a very valuable tool against aggressive tax
planning and tax evasion, and I am confident that Ministers
will carefully evaluate its added value with fresh eyes.
ITR: You have hinted at a compulsory
CCCTB. What has prompted this and do you see it as a possible
route forward for achieving the aims of the CCCTB, given that
progress on that front has stalled in recent years?
PM: The CCCTB was proposed in 2011 as an
optional tax base for companies that are active across borders
in Europe. It aims to reduce the costs of compliance with
different ways of calculating the tax base and to ease their
obligations that are routed in the tax control of intragroup
transactions via so called transfer pricing rules.
Since 2011, member states' experts have been discussing the
different aspects of the Commission's proposal, and they are
progressing, step-by-step, with the technical work. However,
since 2011 the tax landscape has changed and I believe that
today the fight against tax evasion and aggressive tax planning
is as important as the assistance companies deserve in
simplifying their European tax administration. Keeping in mind
the need for unanimity, we need to reflect on what is more
suitable to achieve our goals: an optional CCCTB, as is
currently on the table, or a compulsory one.