Why is Parliament calling for new EU revenue-raising powers? - EU monitor

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Monday, October 26, 2020
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Why is Parliament calling for new EU revenue-raising powers?

Source: European Parliament (EP) i, published on Thursday, September 24 2020.

Parliament is calling for new EU revenue sources to invest in Europe’s future and support the Covid-19 recovery without burdening taxpayers. Find out more.

With negotiations underway on the EU’s 2021-2027 budget as well as the €750 billion Covid-19 recovery instrument, one of the main sticking points is the issue of own resources.

Read more: the EU’s long-term budget explained

What are own resources?

EU countries contribute to a common EU budget in order to achieve common objectives. Unlike national budgets, the EU budget is an investment budget and is not permitted to run a deficit. The EU treaties stipulate that the Union’s budget “shall be financed wholly from own resources”.

These revenue sources are determined by the Council, acting unanimously having consulted the Parliament, and must be ratified also by each EU country. The current system of own resources has remained largely unchanged for three decades and Parliament has long called for it to be overhauled.

What own resources currently exist?

As the EU budget must always be in balance, annual revenue must completely cover annual expenditure. For the current budgetary period (2014-2020), the overall amount of own resources cannot exceed 1.23% of the EU’s gross national income.

EU revenue presently consists of the following:

  • Traditional own resources (mainly customs duties, previously also included sugar levies; accounted for 13% of own resource revenue in 2018)
  • VAT-based own resource (transfer of a percentage of the estimated VAT collected by EU countries; accounted for 11% of revenue in 2018)
  • GNI-based own resource (EU countries transfer a share of their annual gross national income; accounted for 66% of own resource revenue in 2018)
  • Other revenue (includes fines to companies breaching EU competition law, contributions of non-EU countries to certain EU programmes and taxes on salaries of EU staff; accounted for 10% of total EU revenue sources in 2018)

Some EU countries (Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden) currently benefit from rebates on their contributions to the EU budget.

How is Parliament proposing to reform EU own resources?

Parliament has long been of the view that the EU revenue system is opaque, unfair and in need of reform, so as to be able to address current challenges and achieve meaningful results for Europeans.

To reduce reliance on GNI- and VAT-based contributions from EU countries, Parliament is calling for the introduction of new genuine revenue sources linked to EU policies and objectives. Parliament’s proposed timeline for the introduction of new revenue sources is:

  • 1 January 2021: a new national contribution based on non-recycled plastic packaging waste (would incentivise reduced use of single-use plastics, foster recycling and boost the circular economy)
  • 1 January 2021: own resource based on the proceeds of the Emissions Trading System (revenue from the system which restricts the volume of greenhouse gases that can be emitted by energy-intensive industry, power producers and airlines)
  • 1 January 2023: own resource based on digital services taxation (ensuring fair taxation of the digital economy)
  • 1 January 2023: own resource based on a carbon border adjustment mechanism (a carbon price on imports of certain goods from outside the EU, would help ensure a level playing field in the fight against climate change)
  • 1 January 2024: own resource based on a financial transaction tax (ensuring the financial sector pays its fair share of taxes)
  • 1 January 2026: own resource linked to the common consolidated corporate tax base (a share of companies' taxable profits as calculated under a single set of rules in the EU)

MEPs also insist on the abolition of all rebates.

What benefits would the own resources reform create?

These new revenue sources would pay off the joint debt taken by EU countries to finance the Covid-19 recovery fund. Without new own resources, the borrowed recovery money would have to be paid back through further reductions to EU programmes and/or higher GNI-based contributions from EU countries. Parliament wants to ensure that the burden is not on the taxpayer, but on the tech giants, tax dodgers, big foreign polluters and others who do not currently pay their fair share.

The proposed own resources would also ensure that the EU’s priorities - such as the Green Deal and the digital transformation - are better reflected in the financing of its budget. Additionally, they would support the functioning of the single market and reduce reliance on GNI-based national contributions.

How are EU revenue sources decided?

Following consultation with the Parliament, the system of EU own resources is adopted by unanimity in the Council and must be ratified by all EU countries. Parliament approved its position on own resources in a vote on 16 September 2020.

Negotiations between the Parliament and Council on the 2021-2027 budget got underway in late August. Parliament will not give its consent to the new EU budget if there is no agreement on the reform of EU revenue sources. MEPs insist that the first new own resources enter into force as of 1 January 2021 and be complemented thereafter following a binding calendar.

Parliament’s position on EU revenue sources

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