Official Journal of the European Union

C 133/23

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the proposal for a Council Directive amending Directive 2006/112/EC on the common system of value added tax, with regard to the duration of the obligation to respect a minimum standard rate

(COM(2015) 646 final — 2015/0296 (CNS))

(2016/C 133/05)



On 14 January 2016, the Council decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Article 113 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, on the

Proposal for a Council Directive amending Directive 2006/112/EC on the common system of value added tax, with regard to the duration of the obligation to respect a minimum standard rate

(COM(2015) 646 final — 2015/0296 (CNS)).

On 19 January 2016, the Committee Bureau instructed the Section for Economic and Monetary Union and Economic and Social Cohesion to prepare the Committee’s work on the subject.

Given the urgent nature of the work, the European Economic and Social Committee appointed Mr Daniel Mareels as rapporteur-general at its 514th plenary session, held on 17 and 18 February 2016 (meeting of 17 February 2016), and adopted the following opinion by 175 votes to 3 with 4 abstentions.

1.   Conclusions and recommendations


The Committee endorses the proposed directive extending the minimum standard rate for VAT. The minimum will remain at the same level as in previous periods, i.e. 15 %, and will be extended for two years as of 2016.


Transitional arrangements for VAT have been in place for a long time. It is indeed desirable, in this connection, to set a minimum rate of this kind, in the interests of the proper functioning of the internal market: if there were no such minimum, there would be a risk of market disturbances and distortions and of increased competition between Member States.


In addition, setting a minimum rate for a clearly specified period also helps provide greater clarity and legal certainty, which benefits everyone involved.


When this arrangement was extended for the fifth time, in 2010, the Committee expressed the hope that this (the extension) would be ‘the last time’. The new extension for a shorter period can be seen as a step in the right direction, but in the Committee’s view it does not change the fact that further efforts must be made to move away from the current transitional system, which has been in place for more than 20 years, towards a definitive VAT regime tailored to the European internal market.


Overall, the EESC reaffirms the need for a simple, harmonised indirect taxation system, reducing the administrative burden and bringing patent benefits for businesses and individuals, guaranteeing fair taxation and certain revenue for public finances, reducing the risks of tax fraud, and contributing to the further development and completion of the internal market.


The EESC welcomes the Commission’s decision to issue, in March 2016, an Action Plan on the Future of VAT. In the Committee’s view, it is important to support the much-needed continued economic revival and growth by all possible means, and a tailored VAT regime is part of that.

2.   Background


With a view to the establishment of the internal market, efforts were made back in the early 1990s to move towards a definitive VAT regime, but a lack of consensus between the Member States meant that only a transitional arrangement was possible.


In that connection, Directive 92/77/EEC was adopted with regard to VAT rates. The directive introduced a system of minimum rates, stipulating that, from 1 January 1993 to 31 December 1996, the standard rate could not be less than 15 % in any Member State. This provision has since been extended five times and was applicable until 31 December 2015.


The present proposal — which has evidently been presented rather late — extends the applicability of the 15 % minimum, but this time for only two years. This is because the Commission will publish an Action Plan in spring 2016 with the aim of moving towards a simpler, more efficient and more fraud-resistant definitive VAT system, tailored to the single market. During this period more extensive discussions can held on VAT rates.

Brussels, 17 February 2016.

The President of the European Economic and Social Committee

Georges DASSIS