Following controversial legislation to limit privacy in crypto transactions and flirting with banning Bitcoin (BTC), the European Parliament is now looking at what blockchain technology could mean for taxes.
On April 25, lawmakers will discuss how to tighten up tax laws and procedures for the Web 3 era – and a draft report prepared by Portuguese member of the European Parliament Lídia Pereira suggests national tax authorities could start swapping data on individuals’ crypto-asset holdings.
This is perhaps not surprising. Existing EU rules regarding administrative cooperation allow for similar exchanges about bank accounts to stop offshore holdings being kept hidden from the taxman. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is currently consulting on whether this should extend to crypto.
Pereira’s proposal isn’t a problem when you’re talking about big corporations, but could be a troubling privacy invasion if it implicates your regular crypto saver, one lawmaker involved in the report has told CoinDesk in an interview.
“When you have a well-established business which is on the border between the traditional financial system and crypto, then I think it’s fine to have a certain overview or supervision from the authorities and to share this information”, said Mikuláš Peksa, a member of the Czech Pirate Party, which promotes digitalization and online rights.
That shouldn’t mean extra snooping or enforcement activity against regular people, though, he adds.
“Our tax system, as it stands, is very much focused on chasing the smaller players in order to force them to pay each and every euro,” he said, while “the bigger players are generally using more or less legal ways to optimize their taxes.”
Legislators are also interested in blockchain technology for taxes, despite the risk of tax evasion. Public ledgers may be a way to automate tax collection and ensure that people pay what they owe, without having to fill out a lot of forms.
Instead of submitting returns to the tax authorities, “you can tell them the address of your wallet, and they can just do everything else,” Peksa said, adding that, in terms of proving which transactions you’d made, blockchain networks verified by multiple users are “much more accountable than whatever any bank could give you.”
He admits that modernizing conservative tax administrations is not easy. Legislators may have been inspired to act by a November presentation in which tax lawyers suggested Web 3 technology could help. improve efficiency and cut fraud.
The value-added tax (levy on daily sales that is imposed across the bloc) could be even higher. replaced by a less fraud-prone virtual token in time, Robert Müller of law firm Flick Gocke Schaumburg told lawmakers.
Pereira’s draft urges the European Commission to “assess how to leverage blockchain technologies and to prevent tax fraud and avoidance,” and even develop an EU-wide infrastructure to support it.
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In practice, however, the words of legislators may not make any difference. Unlike areas like anti-money laundering law or crypto license requirements, the European Parliament can’t amend tax legislation but only provide advice.
As such, lawmakers’ views seem unlikely to ideal with more substantive issues within the EU crypto tax system. Even in relatively accepting jurisdictions like Germany, the tax treatment can create a headache.
A 2020 OECD report shows that different countries, even within the EU, take different views as to how to tax income from mining, or when one crypto asset is exchanged for another.
This arrangement is unlikely to be changed by the parliament’s advice. Many EU member countries are keen to combat tax-dodging but they also protect their flexibility in setting their tax policies. And, under EU procedures, any country can veto a tax proposal it doesn’t like, preventing it from passing into law.