European Parliament to debate tax evasion

European Parliament to debate tax evasion

The European Parliament is due to meet to debate ways to tackle tax evasion, ahead of an EU summit on the issue.

The EU says 1tn euros ($1.3tn; £0.85tn) a year are lost in member states via tax evasion, seven times the EU budget.

There is anger over revelations about Greek and French politicians holding secret Swiss bank accounts.

MEPs are expected to call for a Europe-wide blacklist of tax havens, and pressure is likely to be put on Switzerland to relax banking secrecy.

The debate comes a day after UK Prime Minister David Cameron urged British overseas territories which operate low-tax regimes to "get their house in order" and sign up to international treaties on tax.

The UK is also expected to push for tighter tax measures at the G8 summit in June.

New rules

The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in the French city of Strasbourg, where the parliament is meeting, says Europe's cash-strapped governments cannot afford to lose a single penny in tax revenue, let alone the 1tn euros a year it believes is disappearing into offshore tax havens.

Its members are expected to call for a series of measures, including a blacklist of tax havens, a system of automatic exchange of banking information, and for resources to be channelled into the prosecution of tax evaders and recovering lost revenue.

On Wednesday, an EU summit will discuss the problem.

Non-EU member Switzerland is expected to come under pressure to put in place new rules.

Last week EU finance ministers agreed to start talks with Switzerland, along with Liechtenstein, Monaco, Andorra and San Marino, on swapping bank account information.

Attempts to tighten up on tax evasion follow a furore in Greece over the so-called Lagarde list, containing the names of more than 2,000 Greeks including senior politicians with Swiss bank accounts.

More recently, France's Socialist government was hit by a scandal, as former Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac was forced to resign over tax fraud allegations.

He later admitted that he had hidden about 600,000 euros in a Swiss bank account.