Loopholes in the EU Savings Tax Directive

The main aim of the EU Savings Tax Directive (ESTD) is to permit the EU Member State of residence of individuals to tax their savings income in the form of interest they receive from foreign payers (located within the EU or any of the states or territories that apply equivalent measures). This goal is achieved by a system of automatic exchange of information although, during a transitional period, some EU Member States (Belgium, Austria and Luxembourg) and dependent territories apply a withholding tax, which ensures at least a minimum level of taxation of the interest derived by EU residents. The first data published on the effects of the ESTD package reveals that the withholding tax revenues reported for the first six months were lower than expected. This is probably because the ESTD has important flaws that enable investors easily to avoid it. Now that the ESTD is in force, it is time to think about closing its multiple loopholes. This article first provides some reflections on the underlying philosophy of the ESTD and then explores some of the loopholes which, in the author's view, should be closed.