Approaches to tax crimes in the European Union, based on validated focus groups input

Approaches to tax crimes in the European Union, based on validated focus groups input


Tax crimes are fuelled by factors of various nature: legal, institutional, socio-economic, cultural, and behavioural. PROTAX addresses all these factors and adds a new dimension to the problem, the human factor.

With a view to analysing how tax crime is addressed in various EU jurisdictions and understand the grassroots and strategic challenges posed to the prevention, investigation and prosecution of this type of criminal offence, PROTAX carried out a series of focus group knowledge exchange events across 10 European countries.

The participants represented a wide spectrum of stakeholders (e.g. law enforcement, judiciary, financial intelligence units, central banks, ministries, academia) involved at the operational and policy levels of combatting tax crimes. The overarching rationale is that the fight against tax crime requires the interaction of different parties, hence the importance of collecting the views and insights of the whole eco-system.

This study compares and contrasts the data and insights emanating from the various focus groups. As such, it will analyse the differences and similarities in various aspects (e.g. legal, institutional, cultural) of the treatment of tax crime across the EU as well as those differences and similarities identified within each jurisdiction.

The study also highlights best practices that have emerged to prevent, mitigate, and prosecute tax crime.

A report published by the European Commission reveals that in 2017 Member States lost an estimated amount of EUR 137.5 billion in value-added tax revenues. This estimate is tied to one type of tax (i.e., VAT) and does not include losses from other types of taxes such as inheritance tax. Yet, it demonstrates the scale and seriousness of tax crimes across the EU.

Key Findings

  • When comparing the legal definitions and provisions to prosecute tax crimes at national levels, the problems of a consolidated and coordinated European approach in countering this form of crime become visible.
  • Producing court proof evidence, applying competing legal concepts, or working across institutional boundaries (e.g., finance/tax and police/law enforcement) are problems encountered in all national contexts.
  • In a comparative perspective, the attitudes and philosophies of the different stakeholder groups (e.g., “enablers” and “enforcers”) displayed a continuum of views, ranging from pragmatic cooperation to conflicts over adequate policies and enforcement strategies.

Please note that the law cited were valid and correct at the time of the reports publication.