European finance ministers agree to intensify talks on tech tax

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European finance ministers have agreed to intensify negotiations on an EU-wide tax targeting the revenues of Google, Apple and other technology giants even as several member states said that they remained opposed to the plans.

Austria, the country holding the EU’s presidency, said after discussions among ministers on Saturday, that governments had agreed to “work intensively at a technical level over the coming weeks and months” on the proposals, which have been championed by a group of nations including France, as a way to ensure large tech companies paid their fair share of tax. Hartwig Löger, Austria’s finance minister, said after the talks in Vienna that his objective was to secure a deal by the end of the year.

But diplomats said Saturday’s talks had also underlined how controversial the proposals remained for several countries including Ireland and Sweden, whose ministers warned during the meeting that the plans risked pulling the EU out of sync with international practices, damaging transatlantic relations and making it harder to reach a global consensus on taxing the tech industry.

The Vienna talks focused on proposals from the European Commission for a temporary 3 per cent tax on digital companies’ revenues from online advertising, selling users’ data and providing intermediation services that connect online buyers and sellers.

The tax would apply to businesses with annual global revenues of €750m and EU revenues of €50m. Brussels has estimated the proposal would affect about 150 of the biggest tech companies and could raise as much as €5bn per year. Under EU rules, the tax would require unanimous support from governments to come into effect.

Financial Times 

 

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