6 December 2016, the European Council adopted a directive granting access for tax authorities to information held by authorities responsible for the prevention of money laundering. The directive will require member states to provide access to information on the beneficial ownership of companies.
It is one of a number of measures set out by the Commission in July 2016, in the wake of the April 2016 Panama Papers revelations. The Council said the media leaks had highlighted areas where the transparency framework must be further reinforced at both EU and international levels. In particular, tax authorities needed greater access to information on the beneficial ownership of intermediary entities and other relevant customer due diligence information.
Where a financial account holder is an intermediary structure, banks are required to look through that entity and report its beneficial ownership. Applying that provision relies on information held by authorities responsible for the prevention of money laundering, pursuant to directive 2015/849/EU. Access to that information will ensure that tax authorities are better equipped to fulfil their monitoring obligations under directive 2014/107/EU.
The directive was adopted at a meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council, without discussion. The European Parliament gave its opinion on 22 November 2016. The directive will apply as from 1 January 2018. Member states will have until 31 December 2017 to transpose the directive into national laws and regulations.