EU fails to back Osborne’s tax dodgers plea

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EUROPEAN finance ministers have failed to agree on plans to crack down on cross-border tax evasion, despite Chancellor George Osborne’s hopes that his colleagues would “take the fight” to tax dodgers.

The EU’s proposed savings directive, which aims to force member states to share information about savings income, was blocked by Austria and Luxembourg and will now be discussed at a summit of European leaders next Wednesday.

Osborne arrived at yesterday’s Ecofin meeting hopeful of a conclusion to the savings directive negotiations, which he said had been “stuck in the European system for years and that has allowed people to avoid the taxes that are legitimately owed”.

Although Algirdas Semeta, the commissioner with responsibility for taxation issues, said yesterday’s meeting made “a step forward” in some areas, overall progress did not live up to expectations.

The European Council did manage to reach an agreement for greater transparency from some tax havens.

Despite the setback, a spokesman for the UK government said: “There is now real momentum building towards a step change in the international community’s approach to tackling offshore evasion, which the government is fully committed to grasp and make a reality as soon as possible.”

Semeta added: “In the battle against tax evasion, what we achieved today was undoubtedly a step forward. Let’s hope that what our leaders agree at the summit next week is more like a giant step.”