It may not be quite accurate to say Heinz Zourek is the power
behind the throne on tax in the EU, but the new member of the
Global Tax 50 is responsible for ensuring the staff of the
directorate-general for taxation and customs union deliver the
European Commission's tax policies.
|Heinz Zourek is
a new entry this year
The Austrian, who has been head of the DG since February
2012, having first joined the Commission in 1995 as deputy
director general of DG for the internal market, points to the
integration of the global standard on automatic exchange of
information (AEoI) into the Directive on Administrative
Cooperation and the insertion of clauses on hybrid loans and
anti-abuse in the Parent-Subsidiary Directive as probably the
highlights of the tax DG's impact in 2014.
"The integration of the global standard on AEoI was achieved
much faster than expected and in an extremely harmonious way,"
he says. "There was no real difficulty about whether to do it,
but how. AEoI really was a breakthrough. I'm pretty proud it
has been achieved in such a short space of time. There was also
a broader debate in the Code of Conduct Group on Harmful Tax
Competition on substance criteria and patent boxes," he adds.
"Luxembourg and Austria giving up on banking secrecy was also a
At the same time, he identifies areas such as VAT, energy
taxation and the financial transaction tax, where "progress
wasn't as much as you would have hoped".
The change in tax commissioner from Lithuanian Algirdas
Šemeta to Frenchman Pierre Moscovici was another
significant change during the year. Zourek says moves like this
can help staff: "It is a very welcome opportunity to take a
step back and ask is there an alternative to how we can achieve
Next year's goals will include developing and implementing a
uniform EU position on BEPS, figuring out how to tax corporate
income and making progress on VAT and indirect taxation
generally. "We can make progress on the CCCTB [Common
Consolidated Corporate Tax Base]. There are a number of issues
that can be responded to using that."
Zourek believes public and political attention on tax, which
is intense at the moment, can be a good thing for
administrators and policy makers: "It brings about action
because you can't afford not to act."