Austria assumes chair of EUROFISC
At the beginning of July 2020, Austria took over the chair of EUROFISC for a period of office lasting two years. This European network began work in 2011 with the aim of promoting and facilitating official cooperation between tax administrations of the EU Member States with a view to combating VAT fraud. "We consider the topic of fraud prevention to be absolutely central. Precisely during these challenging times resulting from the corona crisis, it is important to protect Austria and our European partner countries against illegal economic activity," explained Finance Minister Gernot Blümel. The estimated total annual losses resulting from VAT fraud, amounting to EUR 50 billion annually, illustrate the importance of EUROFISC.
On 26 June 2020 at their general meeting, the Member States elected Austrian liaison official Michael Hribernigg from the tax investigation department of the Austrian tax administration as EUROFISC's new chairperson. As a result, he now heads up the European Union's VAT fraud network, in which all 27 Member States and Norway are represented.
"Through EUROFISC, we have the capacity to initiate the exchange of risk information relating to suspected fraudulent firms in a swift and targeted manner. In order to ensure prompt identification of such firms, over the past few months a European risk analysis has been devised for this purpose," is how Christian Ackerler, head of tax investigation, explains the advantages of this close cooperation.
In addition, its member countries recently established the legal basis enabling EUROFISC to work directly with EUROPOL and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), as well as enabling liaison officials themselves to organise and direct measures for combating identified networks.
"For the period during which we chair EUROFISC, we have a number of plans. They include the aim of utilising these new opportunities to the best possible effect and driving forward efficient restructuring of EUROFISC jointly with our partners. In addition, our aim is to improve risk assessment, and so specific customs data and data from payment service providers (CESOP) will be included in our analysis," concluded Finance Minister Blümel.