Most tax claims (or debts) due to national treasuries are collected promptly through spontaneous payment by the debtor. When the claims are not settled promptly, national tax administrations can resort to a range of powers to recover the claim. At the limit, the claim can be recovered through the seizure and sale of the debtor's property by the tax administration ("enforcement").
The original Community arrangements for mutual assistance between Member States were put in place because it was recognised that it was increasingly likely that the debtor, or recoverable assets belonging to the debtor, were within the jurisdiction of another Member State . Arrangements at Community level were necessary to ensure that taxpayers did not successfully evade their obligations in this way. These arrangements (Council Directive 76/308/EEC), though originally developed to cover agricultural levies and customs duties as sources of Community revenue (traditional own resources), were later extended to VAT (Council Directive 79/1071/EEC), excise duties (Council Directive 92/108/EEC), taxes on income and capital and taxes on insurance premiums (Council Directive 2001/44/EC).
A codified version of this legislation was adopted on 26 May 2008 (Council Directive 2008/55/EC). Detailed implementation arrangements can now be found in Commission Regulation (EC) 1179/2008. This Regulation deals with matters such as the details of the electronic communication system, deadlines for responses, administrative procedures and reimbursement arrangements for costs linked to recovery of debts.
On 16 March 2010, the Council adopted a new Directive on mutual assistance for the recovery of taxes: Council Directive 2010/24/EU. The aim is to extend the scope to all taxes and duties levied by Member States and by their territorial or administrative subdivisions. The creation of a European instrument permitting enforcement in another Member State and the reinforcement of the possibility to take precautionary measures in another member State are two elements which should improve the capacity of Member States in cross border collection of taxes.The EU Member States will have to apply this new Directive as from 1 January 2012.
The Commission on 18 November 2011 adopted a new Regulation laying down detailed provisions to implement the new Council directive (Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 1189/2011, see page 16).