According to a survey, Booking has evaded VAT for 150 million euros

According to a survey, Booking has evaded VAT for 150 million euros

According to a survey

This is contested by an investigation carried out by the Guardia di Finanza in Liguria, starting from the checks on the accounting records of some accommodation facilities

Booking (Jaap Arriens / NurPhoto via Getty Images) A ​​VAT evasion for over 150 million euros in seven years of activity in Italy: this is what is contested by an investigation by the Guardia di Finanza against the online travel booking platform Booking, a company based in the Netherlands. The investigation started in 2018 focused on the period 2013-2019 and started with some tax assessments carried out by the military of Chiavari and Genoa, against the managers of some bed & breakfasts in the tourist areas in Liguria.

"From the examination of the tax documents checked on such occasions it emerged that the Dutch company used to issue invoices without VAT, applying the 'reverse charge' mechanism even in cases where the accommodation facility was devoid of the relevant item, with the consequence that the tax was neither declared nor paid in Italy ”, explains the Guardia di Finanza at the end of the investigations coordinated by the Public Prosecutor's Office. The reverse charge is often used in intra-community transactions and involves the reversal of the VAT taxable amount when the two parties involved are both holders of the lot (with a self-invoice compensation mechanism for the buyer who bears it).

The tax audit took place through the examination of the data made available by the multinational, relating to the commissions applied to 896,500 customer positions in Italy, the databases used by the Guardia di Finanza and an intelligence activity. on open sources. In this way, a specific turnover of about 700 million euros was reconstructed, on which the company should have made the annual VAT return for a total of 153 million euros to be paid to the state coffers. In reality, Booking had not appointed its own tax representative, had not identified itself in Italy and had not presented the document in question. The result was total tax evasion, which remained unpaid both in Italy and in the Netherlands. The operation, says the provincial command of Genoa, is one of the activities "in contrast to evasive phenomenologies capable of generating huge profits for the beneficiaries, to the detriment of the tax authorities and businesses and altering the rules of competition".

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Digital business Tax finance Gig economy taxes Holidays Travel globalData.fldTopic = "Digital business, Finance, taxation, Gig economy, taxes, Holidays, Travel"

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Public Faith in EU Declines Due to Pandemic Handling, Survey Finds

Public confidence in the European Union has dropped largely due to the bloc’s handling of the pandemic and its troubled procurement of coronavirus vaccines, according to a survey for the European Council on Foreign Relations of several member states.  The survey also finds dismay with the EU is spreading from peripheral southern and eastern countries to France and Germany. 

And doubts about the EU are extending beyond just euro-skeptic voters, warn the think tank’s researchers.    

Europeans still, though, believe in the importance of multilateral cooperation between their states and a majority want the EU to become a more significant global actor, but further failure and mishaps could imperil the European project as support is fragile, they say. 

FILE - German Chancellor Angela Merkel waves to French President Emmanuel Macron at the end of a press conference following German-French Security Council video talks in Berlin, Germany, Feb. 5, 2021.

“The fact that two of the EU’s largest and most influential states — France and Germany —  are the least convinced about the need for European cooperation underlines the urgency with which the EU needs to up its game,” according to ECFR senior policy fellows Susi Dennison and Jana Puglierin.  

“Both countries have important national elections coming up in the next year, which may present a challenge for the EU’s leaders. Our polling data indicates that the EU has used up its second chances,” they add. The polling results should be a wake-up call for Brussels.   ECFR is pan-European policy research institution and headquartered in Berlin but has offices across the continent. Its governing council features former foreign ministers, former EU and national lawmakers as well as former EU commissioners and former NATO secretary-generals. 

In half the states surveyed, most respondents said they had little confidence in the EU or said their confidence had declined, with majorities in France (62%), Italy (57%), Germany (55%), Spain (52%) and Austria (51%) saying the EU project was “broken.”

“The growing distrust in the European project extends beyond Eurosceptic voters and has seeped into the mainstream. As our data shows, belief in the need for EU cooperation is weakest among citizens of the Franco-German engine,” said Dennison in a statement. 

Not that Europeans are satisfied with the status of politics in their own states with 80% of Italians and Spaniards, 66% of the French, 60% of the Portuguese, 55% of Poles and 54% of Hungarians saying their own domestic political systems are “broken,” too.  

But it is the sentiments about the EU which are likely to catch the most media attention for the survey, which was released Wednesday. The main lesson to be drawn from the polling, according to Dennison, is: “The EU must urgently up its game if it is to survive.” She added EU leaders had an opportunity at the upcoming G-7, NATO and EU-U.S. summits to “reboot,” but must avoid “institutional over-reach or over-promise.”  Solidarity breakdown   

European solidarity broke down at various times during the pandemic with squabbling between member states and Brussels over vaccine procurement and distribution as well as travel restrictions and the sharing early on in the public health crisis scarce protective medical equipment and ventilators.  

FILE - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addresses a press conference after a visit at Pfizer vaccine plant in Puurs, Belgium, Apr. 23, 2021.

Much of the frustration among member states has been directed at the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, who was the driving force behind persuading member states to sign on to a vaccine procurement and distribution program managed by the authorities in Brussels. 

She and EC commissioners argued a bloc-wide approach would alleviate the risk of vaccine rivalry between member states as they scrambled to place procurement orders and would advertise the strengths of the EU, which in turn would help garner more public support for greater political integration. But it didn’t turn out that way and Europe lagged behind Britain and the U.S. as a third wave of the pandemic hit the continent earlier this year. 

“With citizens particularly disappointed by the EU’s troubled COVID vaccine program, the [European] Commission cannot afford to make the same mistakes as it orchestrates the bloc’s economic revival,” according to Dennison. 

“If the EU is to weather the next stage of the pandemic, and any other challenge to its legitimacy, it is imperative that it listens to its citizens,” added Puglierin. More than 17,000 Europeans were polled online for the survey in April in Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. 

A majority of respondents in all but one of the countries polled still agreed that membership of the EU was “a good thing” for their country. The exception was France, where the largest number of respondents said membership was “neither good nor bad.” That, say analysts, may ring alarm bells in the Élysée Palace.  

FILE - Children walk past election campaign posters for French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, in Osses, southwestern France, May 5, 2017.

French President Emmanuel Macron is facing a difficult campaign in a bid to be re-elected next year and populist nationalist leader Marine Len Pen has been gaining in opinion polls.  

The survey also suggests European Union citizens have adjusted their attitude towards Britain since Brexit, identifying the country no longer as an ally but as a “necessary partner” and sometimes a rival. A similar sentiment appears to be prevailing towards the U.S. post-Trump and is viewed as a country to be “strategically cooperated with” rather than as an ally. One in four Germans and one in five French and Spanish respondents consider the U.S. as a rival or an adversary. 

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