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EU wants the Swiss and pals to cough up IT giants' hidden bank info

Where's my money, eh? WHERE'S MY MONEY?

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Europe's finance ministers will start talks with five non-member states to close tax law loopholes exploited by tech multinationals - such as Google and Amazon.

The ministers said they wanted to open up negotiations with European Free Trade Association members Switzerland and Liechtenstein as well as with "tax haven" microstates Monaco, Andorra and San Marino in an attempt to agree on new rules for sharing bank account information.

The issue of how much tax big corporations are paying, regardless of whether they're behaving legally or not, has become a hot button topic in the wake of European austerity measures after the global financial crisis.

In Blighty, ministers have been investigating the behaviour of foreign multinationals Google, Amazon and Starbucks, as well as the top four accounting firms, including Ernst & Young. Both Google and its auditor Ernst & Young have been called back to give evidence to the Public Accounts Committee tomorrow.

UK chancellor George Osborne said after meeting the European finance ministers over the weekend that it was "incredibly important that companies and individuals pay the tax that is due".

The Council of the European Union said in its statement that the EU already has agreements with the five non-EU countries on the taxation of savings income and it wants to make sure that they continue to "apply measures that are equivalent to the EU's directive" on savings.

"Equivalent measures in the current agreements involve either automatic exchange of information or a withholding tax on interest paid to savers resident in the EU. A proportion of the revenue accrued from the withholding tax is transferred to the country of the saver's tax residence," the council said.

It added that countries needed more efforts to stop not just tax evasion and fraud at the national, EU and global levels, but also "aggressive tax planning" - using loopholes to legally, if not strictly ethically, minimise tax payments.

"France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK have agreed to work on a pilot multilateral exchange facility using the model agreed with the US as the basis for this multilateral exchange with the aim of contributing to the creation of a new global standard," the council said. "The EU has a key role to play in supporting and promoting the acceptance of such standards globally." ®

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