News from Europe

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Working Communication

The Commission is again calling for opinions on the proposed revisions to the Working Time Directive. This is the exercise that earlier this year gave rise to fears in the national media that the ability for employees to voluntarily opt out of the rules might be made illegal. That would cause management services types all manner of complexities in employee deployment efficiency measures but we held our breath on it because at that time there was much more rumour than fact scurrying about.

Now we have something to go on and you might like to look up a new Communication document on http://europa.eu.int /comm/employment_social/Iabour_law with the whole text of the proposal. Both employers' and employees' representatives are invited to comment although whether or not Brussels will bother to read submissions from individual companies is open to doubt.

Areas for treatment include that individual opt-out (treated as a health and safety matter), issues on health professionals like whether they are working when they are merely on call - and the four-month period on which the 48-hour weekly average is calculated.

VAT from home

Brussels appears to be chasing an ideal where a company could fulfil all its VAT obligations for EU-wide activities solely in the member state in which it is established. A consultation exercise ran up to the end of July - although it again invited only representative organisations to become involved. The results, however, by the time you read this should be available on: http://europa.eu.int/comm/taxation_ customs/consultations.

That website also, as we go to press, describes the principle of using a single VAT number for all supplies made throughout the EU and making VAT declarations to one electronic portal that would then be submitted automatically to the different member states into which the trading company supplies goods or services. We hope they do not see fit to remove that explanation because it may prove to be a useful piece of advanced homework for our accounting colleagues. The exercise does not seem to need uniformity of VAT rates and regimes, a fear we have expressed in this column before and about the overall review of which this measure is a part.

Financial Integration

Yet another Brussels consultation follows the reports by four independent groups of experts on the state of financial integration in the banking, insurance, securities and asset management sectors. The deadline for written comments on the four reports is 10 September and this time individual finance etc companies are invited to respond. The Commission will then produce a summary of the feedback for us to read and have a think about it. The reports are on: http://europa.eu.int/comm/internal_ market/en/flnances/actionplan/stocktaking

Broad-brush broadband

After what seems to be a totally unnecessary study a Commission report concludes that the number of people and businesses accessing the internet at high speed had grown by more than 80% in the year to January 2004. …