Economic and Financial Affairs Council, 21/03/2017

Council of the EU

Main results

Economic and fiscal policy 

The Council discussed the implementation of country-specific recommendations under the 'European Semester', focusing on the reform experiences in this area in the member states. This gave rise to an exchange of views on how these experiences have impacted on the business environment

“The only way for countries to overcome 'reform fatigue' is to have feedback from other member states on how they managed to undertake reforms in a more positive manner”, said Edward Scicluna, minister for finance of Malta, which currently holds the Council presidency. “The presentations in today's Council have achieved this objective”.

G20 meeting  

Ministers discussed the outcome of a meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors held in Baden-Baden on 17 and 18 March 2017,  having been briefed by the Maltese presidency, the Commission and the G20 finance ministers' host country, Germany.  

The meeting featured discussions on the global economy, a compact with Africa, international financial institutions, taxation, financial regulation, remittances and anti-money-laundering.  

It was the first of two such meetings before a July G20 summit in Hamburg. 

Value-added tax  

The Council discussed a proposal that would authorise non-standard VAT rates for electronic publications and a proposal that would allow for a generalised but temporary reversal of liability as a means of preventing VAT fraud.  

The first proposal provides for the possibility to align the rules for e-publications - which are currently taxed at the standard VAT rate - on those for 'physical' publications, which benefit from a variety of reduced rates. It is part of a broader effort to modernise VAT under the EU's 'digital single market' plan.  

The second proposal responds to a request by member states particularly affected by VAT fraud. The 'generalised reverse charge mechanism' would involve shifting liability for VAT payments from the supplier to the customer for domestic supplies above a specified threshold.  

Work will continue in the light of ministers' remarks, with the aim of reaching agreement on both proposals.

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