Global Tax 50 2014: Heinz Zourek
Director-general – DG Taxation and Customs Union, European Commission
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. 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 major achievement."
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 something."
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."
The Global Tax 50 2014
Gold tier (ranked in order of influence)
Silver tier (in alphabetic order)
Joaquín Almunia • Apple • Justice Patrick Boyle • CTPA • Joe Hockey • IMF • Arun Jaitley • Marius Kohl • Tizhong Liao • Kosie Louw • Pierre Moscovici • Michael Noonan • Wolfgang Schäuble • Algirdas Šemeta • Robert Stack
Bronze tier (in alphabetic order)
Shinzo Abe • Alberto Arenas • Piet Battiau • Monica Bhatia • Bitcoin • Bono • Warren Buffett • ECJ Translators • Eurodad • Hungarian protestors • Indian Special Investigation Team (SIT) • Chris Jordan • Armando Lara Yaffar • McKesson • Patrick Odier • OECD printing facilities • Pier Carlo Padoan • Mariano Rajoy • Najib Razak • Alex Salmond • Skandia • Tax Justice Network • Edward Troup • Margrethe Vestager • Heinz Zourek