EUROPE – The European Commission is urging companies and employees to report any cases of tax discrimination concerning the transfer of occupational pension schemes between member states, so that it can take appropriate action under the recently published tax communication of EC internal market commissioner Frits Bolkestein.

The call by Bolkestein himself at a European Press Club conference in The Hague, comes as part of the EC’s threat to take member states to the European Court of Justice if they flout the fundamental anti-discriminatory principles of the 1958 Treaty of Rome.

Bolkestein stated: “I would like to stress that the Commission would very much like to hear from companies and employees if they have encountered instances of tax discrimination concerning occupational pensions so that it can take appropriate action with the Member States concerned.”

Explaining why the Commission had opted for the communication route as opposed to a legally binding directive, Bolkestein commented: “We are merely interpreting in a fairly obvious way what was in the treaty.
“ The big question to ask is why we haven’t been doing this in the past – the treaty is in existence since 1958, so what have we been doing in all those 40 years?
“ That would be a good question and it is a question which I don’t have an answer to, unfortunately.

While Bolkestein says he would prefer mediation with member states, he is adamant that legal action will be taken if compliance to the treaty is not forthcoming:
“ The reason it is a communication is that I don’t need a directive. I’m merely reminding member states what was stated in the treaty and we will enter into discussion with them over any infringements and if necessary take them to court over it.
“ In that area – discrimination of pension funds – I have all the instruments at my disposal.”