A political agreement was reached by European Union member states on March 13 on new transparency rules for intermediaries (tax advisers, accountants, banks and lawyers) who design and promote tax planning schemes for their clients.

The decision was taken by EU Economic and Financial Affairs ministers at their meeting in Brussels.

First proposed by the European Commission in June 2017, the new measures will enter into force on 1 July 2020. The aim is to build on a multitude of ambitious rules to fight tax avoidance and to boost tax transparency already agreed at EU level under the Juncker Commission.

According to a Commission press release, tax intermediaries who provide their clients with complex cross‑border financial schemes that could help avoid tax will be obliged to report these structures to their tax authorities. In turn, EU member states will exchange this information with each other, further increasing scrutiny around the activities of tax planners and advisers.

“The new rules agreed today confirm the EU as the world leader in tax transparency,” said Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs. “In future, intermediaries will have to share with tax administrations the schemes they sell to their clients. Tax administrations will then have access to the information they need to put an end to the aggressive tax planning schemes eroding their tax bases. This agreement is a further step towards more openness and better cooperation, facilitating fairer and more effective taxation throughout the EU.”

Recent media leaks such as the Panama and Paradise Papers have exposed how some intermediaries actively assist companies and individuals to escape taxation, usually through complex cross-border schemes.

As reported by Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster, Bulgaria’s Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, welcomed the new rules. He said: “If the authorities receive information about aggressive tax planning schemes before they are implemented, they will be able to close down loopholes before revenue is lost.”