The Revenue Commissioners will have to share details on tax opinions issued to multinational corporations with other EU states every three months under new proposals tabled by the European Commission.

At present EU tax authorities exchange information on tax rulings, where companies are advised on the treatment of certain activities, at their own discretion. The Commission proposals, which follow revelations of massive tax avoidance by large corporations and secret deals with authorities, will see them compelled to share information each quarter.

Brian Keegan, director of taxation with Chartered Accountants Ireland, says it is not immediately clear why the Commission wants to impose this new rule given the fact that revenue commissioners around Europe already have the power to exchange their opinions between themselves. Explaining what an opinion is, Mr Keegan describes it as a fairly routine process whereby a revenue authority is approached by a business and asked how a certain tax matter is to be treated. This would include a charity going to Revenue and ensuring that they eligible for the charter of exception. He says the Commission seems to be shifting the focus away from the rules of taxation to how revenue authorities actually apply the rules. 

The new proposals would result in a "deluge" of information which would allow the Commission set up a data base in Brussels with all of the opinions and rulings that have been issued in relation to multi-national companies. But he says that would raise problems. The exchange of opinions is at the revenue authorities' discretion, and Mr Keegan says they are probably sending each other really useful stuff in terms of dealing with international corporate tax affairs. He also cautions about the type of signal the proposals would send out. Any multi-national - not just coming to Ireland but to anywhere in Europe - would now know that all of its sensitive business information is going to be included in a data base in Brussels. "I'm not entirely sure how that is good for foreign investment," he states.

Mr Keegan says there is no doubt these proposals are as a result of the LuxLeaks revelations and because of some of the investigations the Commission is currently carrying out into some companies and countries, but he says that you can not make policy based on a number of extreme examples. He says the new proposals are a political response to a tax issue and the political response does not accommodate the fact that procedures for the exchange of opinions has been in place since 2011. Another layer of bureaucracy is being added to what should be a single market, he adds.

***
MORNING BRIEFS - Independent News and Media has reached agreement to sell its shareholding in Australian media group APN for €121.3m. Credit Suisse Australia agreed to find a buyer or buyers for the entire 18.6% stake at a fixed price of AUD$0.88 per share. That has not proven too hard as Rupert Murdoch's News Corp has just bought a 14.99% stake in APN. INM says the proceeds of the sale will be used to repay its debt in full. Separately Baycliffe, an investment vehicle of businessman Denis O'Brien the largest single shareholder in Independent News and Media, has sold its stake in APN realising €84m.

*** The euro regained some lost ground against the dollar overnight despite the US Federal Reserve opening the way for the first interest rate rise in the US since 2006. The euro zone and the US are moving in different directions at present. The Fed has wrapped up its monetary stimulus programme and is keeping an eye on inflation trends in the US with a view to when it feels rate rises are necessary. Here the ECB has just embarked on a €1.1 trillion stimulus programme and is committed to close to zero interest rates for the foreseeable future. All of that affects the relationship between the euro and the dollar as investors move money between the two currencies in accordance with their expectations about interest rates and the future returns on assets such as government and corporate bonds. Just over a year ago each euro was worth over $1.40, but the single currency is now edging closer to parity with the dollar.

*** Zamano, the Dublin-based provider of mobile messaging, advertising and payments services, said today it has begun discussions with mobile operators on what it calls a "single click" payments service for making micropayments on mobile devices. The announcement comes alongside results which show the Zamano made a full-year pre-tax profit of €2.2m - that's up 14% year-on-year, on revenues of €19.9m - 24% ahead of last year.