High Level Seminar Strengthening Cooperation between Customs and Tax Authorities Malta- 27 & 28 April 2017

High Level Seminar

Strengthening Cooperation between Customs and Tax Authorities


27 & 28 April 2017 

Final Conclusions

The Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, in collaboration with the European Commission, held a High Level Seminar on ‘Strengthening the Cooperation between Customs and Tax Authorities’. 

The seminar brought together Customs and Tax Directors-General as well as senior policy officials from all the EU Member States to discuss strategic cooperation issues and evaluate better collaborative options for the future. 

It took the form of an opening plenary which was followed up by four simultaneous workshops, discussing the following topics:
Workshop 1
• Facilitation of trade/encouraging compliance
• Legal lacunae

Workshop 2
• Potential areas of cooperation
• Facilitation of trade/encouraging compliance 

Workshop 3
• Legal lacunae
• Improving information exchange  

Workshop 4
• Potential areas of cooperation
• Improving information exchange  

During the discussion in the concluding plenary, seminar participants acknowledged:

• the need for customs and tax authorities to cooperate with each other and with other government authorities in order to achieve the best balance between controls and trade facilitation, including by working towards ensuring the best alignment of provisions and procedures in customs and tax policies. This cooperation needs to be enhanced at national, EU and International level.  

• the explosion in e-commerce has increased the potential risk of Customs and Tax offences. The exponential increase in small parcels traffic was highlighted as a particular challenge; however e-commerce also presents new opportunities.

• the need for joint discussions at the design stage on Tax and Customs legislation as this would help ensure synergies; 
o from the Customs and Tax perspective, the new VAT proposal (the MOSS & de-minimis elements) presents potential implementation challenges;

• VAT fraud, particularly that associated with onward supply relief (CP 42). There are potential design and implementation flaws that require urgent addressing before revenue losses increase; 

• Better understanding of procedures is required to promote closer working relations between the authorities;

• A further simplification and alignment of rules and regulations to enable business and citizens to be compliant, is considered useful. It was highlighted that there are not just those who comply or are fraudsters, but there is a significant group of businesses/citizens that would like to comply, but may find it difficult to do so.

The participants identified the following potential solutions: 

• Information-exchange between the pertinent authorities is becoming crucial to address fraud, 
• comprehensive risk-management for common objectives is becoming even more important, 
• joint investigations and audits could help in achieving better results as well as reducing burdens of duplication (audits).
• The mutual benefit of the trusted trader concept is to be explored, with the possibility of extending the relevance of such concept to tax authorities and also explore the possibility of having a common platform for both;
• A business process analysis of the different procedures at stake, VAT, customs and business, could usefully be conducted in order to align processes, identify gaps, flaws and potential improvements.

These issues, both at strategic and technical levels, need to be discussed and addressed on a regular basis. In this regard, joint high level discussions would be helpful, possibly within already established structures with input from the existing technical groups.

More formalised mechanisms for cooperation at practical level between tax and customs authorities need to be explored, drawn and possibly established. These include, in particular, joint training, audits and Memoranda of Understanding.

Where these steps towards greater coordination are achieved, an increase in revenue and further trade facilitation and greater efficiency in Tax and Customs administrations are to be expected.