Pressing forward on taxation
The European Parliament has nominated its rapporteur for the taxation element of the European directive on occupational pensions – Dutch MEP Ieke van den Burg of the European Socialist Party.
However, talking to IPE, van den Burg, a member of the Dutch social democrat party (Partij van de Arbeid) and a substitute member of the European parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (EMAC), says she believes that European Commissioner Frits Bolkestein is set to dilute plans for a legally binding directive on taxation in favour of the weaker option of a communication.
While she has yet to see the final proposal from Bolkestein - expected at the end of March, Van den Burg says the rumoured Bolkestein climb-down is not a position she herself shares.
“This (tax directive) is something we are pressing for in the parliament because we also have the other proposal on the IORP from the internal market DG to consider.
Van den Burg adds:“I am an executive member of the EMAC and what we have clearly stated is that we want the tax proposal linked to the proposal of Mr Karas. “The directive gives indications on the financial markets and prudential rules, but it also states that trans-border pensions arrangements be made possible and for this the tax element is essential.
Despite suggestions from Karas that he will press ahead for a directive with or without the tax element, van den Burg is convinced he wants both linked.
“I think he is also in favour of linking the tax issue to the directive. That is why we decided to wait for the plenary until May,” she notes.
The rapporteur explains Bolkestein’s retraction of his original proposal last year for the taxation directive: “ The indication is that there has been a discussion in the commission, which is focusing very much on infringement procedures, where the commission can only act against infringements by member states where they don’t fit into European law rulings on cross-border issues.
“They’ve made it more of an issue of the European Court of Justice.”
Nevertheless, van den Burg empathises with Bolkestein’s position and notes the major political stumbling blocks he has faced: “The big question is whether you tax the contributions,” she says, pointing to the different systems currently in place around Europe.
“Another big problem is how you deal with the transfer of pensions from operation to operation.
“Bolkestein is a very experienced politician but taxation is very difficult to talk to member states about.
“One of the problems is that you need unanimity for this kind of discussion.”
However in the parliament, she believes there is widespread support to have the dual directives pushed through, noting that the pressure is from social partners and the funds themselves.
“It is very important for labour mobility in the union and I don’t envisage any problems of support in the parliament for this.”