Tue, Apr 09, 2019 - Page 10 News List

EU’s Vestager says Europe must lead wth digital tax

Reuters, PARIS

Europe needs to decide on a digital tax and should lead the way if there is insufficient consensus globally, the European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager said yesterday.

There is still disagreement among EU members over how to implement a so-called “GAFA tax” — named after Alphabet Inc’s Google, Apple Inc, Facebook Inc and Amazon.com Inc — to ensure that the global Internet giants pay a fair share of taxes on their massive business operations in Europe.

France has been driving hard for such a tax, but at a meeting of EU finance ministers over the weekend, Sweden, Finland, Ireland and Denmark blocked a draft EU-wide GAFA tax proposal, officials said.

“We are becoming an increasingly digital world and it will be a huge problem if we do not find a way to raise [digital] taxes,” Vestager told France Inter radio.

European countries first needed a deal that could lead to an EU-wide harmonized tax, Vestager said.

“The best thing is a global solution, but if we want to obtain results in a reasonable period of time, Europe must take the lead,” she added.

The French National Assembly yesterday began debating a draft national GAFA tax law. The bill proposes a 3 percent tax on digital advertising and other revenues of tech firms with worldwide revenues of more than 750 million euros (US$842.52 million).

Vestager, a former Danish economy minister, has a high profile in Brussels for attacking tax avoidance and monopoly powers among US multinationals and is widely talked about as a candidate for the European Commission presidency when Jean-Claude Juncker’s term expires in November.

She has not announced a public bid for the job, but if she does, she would likely need the backing of French President Emmanuel Macron.

Asked if she was interested in the Commission presidency, she said: “I take a lot of interest in the future of Europe.”

“My point is that before we decide on any kind of new face for the Commission, we really need to know what we want to do,” she added.

Internet giants are coming under increasing pressure from regulators globally. Separately yesterday, Britain proposed new online safety laws that would slap penalties on social media and technology firms if they fail to protect their users from harmful content.

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