In response to the Panama leaks revelations, which showed wealthy individuals and firms channel funds through offshore firms to avoid paying taxes, the Greens in the European Parliament (EP) have called for an immediate response at EU level.
The Greens/European Free Alliance group is leading the push for the creation of a European Parliament inquiry committee to properly investigate the revelations and their implications at EU level.
"Panama Leaks shows we have so far just been scratching at the surface of the odious tax avoidance practices employed by individuals and businesses around the world and Europe. The Panama Papers have shown that obligations under existing EU anti-money laundering legislation are not enforced by EU governments and authorities," Greens/European Free Alliance co-president Philippe Lamberts said.
"It would appear that, as with the revelations in Luxembourg Leaks, EU institutions and governments have failed in their duty to enforce the law. With authorities and policy makers in Europe continuing to drag their heels in their response to the pre-existing evidence, it is clear that this void needs to be filled. As the EU's democratically-elected institution, the European Parliament has a duty to fill this gap and investigate the extent and implications of these allegations," he said.
Greens/EFA economic and finance spokesperson Sven Giegold said: "An inquiry committee is the most powerful tool available to the EP and can investigate breaches of EU law by member states and if the Commission acted in accordance with its duties under the EU treaties. It will ensure MEPs have sufficient resources for such an investigation, as well as access to the necessary documents. We will work to secure as broad political support as possible for the creation of such a committee.
"We believe the mandate of this inquiry committee should also include the ongoing work of the EP's special committee investigating tax avoidance in the aftermath of Luxembourg Leaks. The work of this committee is still being hampered by the refusal of EU governments and the Commission to make all the necessary documents available, and having a stronger status would also help it fulfil its mandate," he said.
In January 2016, the European Commission branded the Belgian "excess profit" tax scheme illegal under EU state aid rules and ordered the country to recover the US$760 million unpaid tax from the companies concerned, most of which are major multinationals.
In October 2015, the Commission ruled that Luxembourg and the Netherlands have granted selective tax advantages to Fiat and Starbucks, respectively. The Commission also has three ongoing in-depth investigations into concerns that tax rulings may give rise to state aid issues, concerning Apple in Ireland, Amazon in Luxembourg and McDonald's in Luxembourg.
The investigation into Ireland's tax treatment of Apple is ongoing. Last December the Commission opened an investigation into Luxembourg's tax deal with McDonald's.