Tax authorities across Europe will be able to automatically share information about bank account holders, according to a Council position approved by the European Parliament on November 22. It was passed by 590 votes to 32 votes, with 64 abstentions.

According to a European Parliament press release, the new rules will enable and oblige tax authorities with anti-money laundering responsibilities in any EU country to automatically share information such as bank account balances, interest income and dividends, with their counterparts in other member states.

French MEP Emmanuel Maurel (S&D), who was the rapporteur on Parliament’s position, said that “huge efforts made in transparency are the only way to fight against [tax evasion] this scourge that affects public finances.”

In its resolution, Parliament said that links between money laundering, the funding of terrorism, organised crime and tax evasion, highlight the need for close cooperation and coordination among EU countries.

Portuguese MEP Miguel Viegas (GUE/NGL) opened the debate on behalf of the group, and welcomed the proposals but cautioned. “It goes without saying that we support all measures that ensure better access to information and better co-operation between tax administrations and member states.”

“But when it comes to fighting against money-laundering, we should not delude ourselves that we can leave this solely to the diligence of private companies and the financial system.”

“There have been legal instruments set up to favour the liberalisation of the economy. These allow major multinationals which are too big to fail to channel most of the illegal funds. They are the ones calling the shots – not the EU institutions!”

“Fraud, tax evasion and money-laundering are the visible face of the neoliberal economy and are inseparable from the capitalist system. This has to change,” the Portuguese MEP added.

Meanwhile, Danish MEP Rina Ronja Kari also welcomed the proposals but said much more is needed: “If we’ve learned anything from the leaks on tax havens it is that money-laundering thrives in the dark. But we have ‘openness’ at our disposal and the transparency of our tax payments being made public.”

“But more can still be done, such as information on beneficial owners being made public, for example,” added Kari. “Many are still reeling from these tax haven scandals and we have a deficit of tax revenue. Effective tools to combat money-laundering and evasion are therefore essential.”

In turn, Greek MEP Kostas Chrysogonos also took the floor. He said although these proposals are very important, there is concern over the breach of privacy and personal data: “We’ve spent many years dealing with the economic crisis and the EU is finally trying to put an end to this vicious circle of corruption and lack of transparency. And thanks to better technology, all these are possible now.”

“However, there are certain things that we cannot agree with when it comes to the automatic exchange of information – this is a violation of the fundamental rights of European citizens!”