The Committee considers transparency essential as it is important for all parties, for the companies themselves, and for improving their image and boosting the trust of workers, consumers and investors. While the EESC recognises that most companies operating in the EU are indeed transparent and that investors and shareholders are increasingly paying attention to qualitative corporate social responsibility (CSR) indicators, it is important to focus simultaneously on both the effectiveness and scope of the information being filed and on its quality and veracity. The EESC believes that any further initiative on disclosure of information should include a common set of indicators and at the same time should take into consideration the nature of the company and the sector in which it is operating.
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The EESC encourages the Commission to pursue its efforts to develop policy proposals aimed at promoting the creation of innovative and high growth firms. These policy proposals should strengthen the single market, reinforce the clusters and ecosystems in which innovative start-ups are created, develop the equity component of the European capital markets, encourage an academic agenda focusing on jobs for the future and minimise the cost and red tape involved in starting a new entrepreneurial venture.
The EESC believes that the fight against terrorism and its financing and efforts to combat money laundering and other related forms of economic crime should be permanent EU policy priorities. These efforts should be linked more closely with the efforts needed to combat tax fraud and tax avoidance. Therefore, the EESC considers creating public national registers of the beneficial owners of bank accounts, businesses, trusts and transactions, and access to them by obliged entities, to be a priority. Furthermore, all obligations laid down in the Anti Money Laundering Directive should be extended to all territories or jurisdictions whose sovereignty resides with the Member States. And free trade and economic partnership agreements should include a chapter on measures to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing, tax fraud and tax avoidance.
Fighting against tax avoidance and aggressive tax planning, both at the EU and at a global level, is an important political priority for the European Union. The EESC welcomes and endorses the Commission proposal, which aims to make the taxation system more transparent as this measure will boost public confidence. The EESC suggests that the Commission should aim for a more ambitious package. It proposes the disclosure of a wider range of data, the gradual reduction of the turnover threshold of EUR 750 Million and that the disclosed data is made publicly available in one of the official languages of the EU in order to achieve the objective of giving the public genuine access to data for the whole single market.
The EESC welcomes the "Action Plan on VAT", and calls for a definitive VAT system that is clear, consistent, robust and comprehensive, as well as proportionate and future-proof. The Committee welcomes the strong focus on closing the VAT gap and tackling the susceptibility of VAT to fraud. There should be results delivered without delay, including by improving cooperation between tax administrations. “Bona fide” enterprises should be protected and no new excessive measures should be imposed on them. The future system of reduced rates must combine flexibility and legal certainty, be transparent, and for the sake of simplicity the number of reduced rates and exemptions must be limited.
The EESC expresses its support for the Commission in combating the erosion of Member States' tax bases and unfair tax competition. The Committee in this context endorses the introduction of a CCCTB and is also pleased that the Commission has published a list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions. The EESC goes even further and proposes that EU rules should include sanctions for companies that continue to run their business through tax havens.
The own-initiative opinion will focus on the impact of the TTIP on SMEs and reflect on the provisions that would need to be included in the TTIP in order to take account of the specific character of SMEs in the negotiations and implementation of an eventual EU-US agreement. The opinion will also look at how to increase the awareness of SMEs as to existing support services and programmes, and particularly about the new business opportunities that may arise with this agreement.
The EESC welcomes the Investment Plan for Europe as a step in the right direction, which however faces serious questions about the Plan's size and timescale, the high degree of leverage expected and the potential flow of suitable projects. The Plan proposes that contributions to the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) from Member States will not be included in budget deficit calculations and this is to be welcomed, but it begs the question as to why ongoing strategic public infrastructure expenditures are not treated in the same way. Strategic public investment which underpins present and future economic development should be incentivised by a more benign European fiscal framework.