“The sense of urgency is definitely much bigger,” said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the finance minister from the Netherlands that holds the EU’s rotating presidency, on the second day of talks in Amsterdam.
“We’ve been (so) very busy competing with each other … that big companies tend not to pay taxes,” said Dijsselbloem who is also head of the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers.
The EU’s 28 member governments at “very committed to close the gaps”, he added.
Among the measures, the EU will propose a joint list of tax havens to expose jurisdictions used by European individuals and companies to evade or minimise taxes.
“There is unanimous support that Europe create its own list of tax havens by this summer,” said European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici.
This could prove difficult however, with EU countries already having individual lists based on highly different criteria.
The ministers also backed a proposal by the EU’s top powers to automatically exchange data in order to expose the real owners of shell companies.
Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain unveiled the measure at G20 talks in Washington last week.
“There is an assumed and converging willingness to fight any anonymous mechanisms” that aid tax evasion and money laundering, said French Finance Minister Michel Sapin.
The EU member countries will also launch talks next week on new rules requiring big companies operating in Europe to make public what they earn in each member state of the 28-nation bloc, Dijsselbloem said.
Country-by-country reporting has for years been a major demand of tax activists who accuse big corporations of secretly shifting profits to low-tax jurisdictions, often through the use of shell companies.
EU governments are divided on the proposal, with some arguing that sensitive corporate data should remain exclusive to tax authorities and not made public.
“I think we should not overshoot in tackling these things out of the hysteria on Panama,” said Austrian Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling.