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Definition and types

Taxes come in various forms, but they all correspond to the money collected by a government. This money is then used to finance specific facilities or services such as hospitals, schools, museums, libraries, etc. The most common individual taxes are:
  • income tax: is a percentage of individual earnings given to the government;
  • consumption tax: is the VAT (Value Added Tax) and excise duties on tobacco, alcohol, energy products and some specific goods, such as coffee in Germany;
  • property tax: is based on the value of land and property assets;
  • tariffs/customs duties: tax on imported goods intended to support national businesses;
  • excises: indirect tax charged on the sale of particular goods;
  • environmental tax is an additional cost added to the price of buying or using polluting products or activities, which discourages their consumption and production;
  • capital gains (type of tax levied on capital gains, profits an investor benefits from when a person sells a capital asset for a price that is higher than the purchase price);
  • inheritance tax: is a tax paid on the money or property that a person inherits from another person after that second person dies.
The tax collected goes straight into the national budget, whereas tariffs and custom duties are collected nationally but go into EU budget.

I am starting
university ...


I have my
first job ...


I am setting up
a business ...

As an EU citizen, you are entitled to study at any EU university (providing you meet its entry requirements). Whether you have to pay a student fee depends on the extent to which the university is funded through taxpayers’ money in that country. For example, attending university is free in Scotland, whereas in Italy, you have to pay (and each university sets the amount).
Find out more about the system in each country here.
Did you land your dream job? Congratulations! As you probably know, starting work also means that you start paying income tax, based on your revenue.

The country where you are resident for tax purposes can tax your total worldwide income, earned or unearned. This includes wages, pensions, benefits, income from property or from any other sources, or capital gains from the sale of property.

Each country has its own definition of tax residence:
You will usually be considered a tax resident in the country where you spend more than six months a year;
If you spend less than six months a year in another EU country, you will normally remain tax resident in your home country.
Find out here how income tax works, if you spend time in more than one EU country.
Congratulations! Europe needs more entrepreneurs! Setting up a company in the EU is now easier than it used to be. You just need to look into tax obligations – such as requesting a VAT number, for example.




Tax fraud and tax evasion

When a person or company intentionally does not pay the tax due, the money is lost from public budgets. This happens when an individual or business:

deliberately provides false information in a tax declaration, or pays less than the full amount;


stores money in foreign bank accounts without reporting it or paying tax on it;


carries out ‘aggressive tax planning’ by exploiting the limits of the law to minimise tax bills.

What are the consequences?

Tax fraud and tax evasion limit a country’s ability to raise money and implement economic and social policies. That could mean cuts in funding for public services such as health care or education.

My government & the EU
who does what?

Responsibility for combating tax fraud and evasion lies with individual countries. However, in an increasingly globalised world, the EU provides a framework and support for dealing with cross-border tax issues. EU legislation facilitates collaboration between national tax authorities, for example.

Find out how the EU fights against tax fraud and tax evasion.

‘Tax Fraud and Tax Evasion EU: The missing part’: watch the video.





Learn how to avoid buying fake products

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) ensure that creative and inventive efforts are rewarded and that investments in new and more efficient products are encouraged. They stimulate the creation of jobs in today's knowledge-based economy.


IPR infringements are harmful as they reduce business and government revenues, stifle investment and innovation and hinder economic growth. They result in job losses and reduced wealth creation (Gross Domestic Product or GDP). Furthermore, goods that infringe on IPR risk harming consumers, as they are less likely than others to comply with health and safety standards.

Online guide to identifying fake goods..

The EU Member States’ customs authorities are on the frontline in preventing goods infringing Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) from entering the EU market. Find out more about the EU legislation framework.

The real price of fake goods’: watch the video.


charity donations

In some countries, when you give money to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), foundations, charities – from those funding medical research to those maintaining heritage buildings – you can get tax relief.


Belgium and Romania are among the countries in which you can mention charitable donations on your tax declaration at the end of the year. Some of what you gave is then refunded to you (provided you donated to a registered charity).

Facts and figures from around the EU

  • In 2015, tax revenue (including social contributions) in the 28 EU countries stood at 40 % of Gross Domestic Product (monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country's borders in a specific time period), and accounted for around 89 % of total government revenue.
  • In Europe, the ratio of 2015 tax revenue to GDP was highest in France (47.9 % of GDP), Denmark (47.6 %) and Belgium (47.5 %).The lowest shares were in Ireland (24.4 %), Romania (28.0 %), Bulgaria (29.0 %), Lithuania (29.4 % ), Latvia (29.5 %) and Switzerland (28.1 %). Find the results for all EU countries here.
  • Tax revenues vary from year to year. The main reasons are changes in economic activity (levels of employment, sales of goods and services, etc.) and in tax legislation (tax rates, the tax base, thresholds, exemptions, etc.).
  • The economic crisis – together with fiscal policy measures – had a huge impact on the level and composition of tax revenue in 2009-2015. Many countries therefore had to introduce spending cuts.
  • You pay tax when you play the lottery! Some countries, like Italy, have put a tax on lottery tickets.