The explosion in "carousel" VAT fraud across the European Union over the past year is said to be costing governments a total amount more than they spend on the common agricultural policy each year, the Guardian can reveal.
With Britain set to lose up to £10bn in 2006 - equivalent to 3p on the basic rate of tax - European officials are warning that the problem is escalating rapidly across the EU, and other countries are likely to be experiencing losses of similar proportions. If the estimates are correct, the EU's total loss each year would be around 50bn (£35bn) - the same as total common agricultural policy spending, and five times more than expenditure on employment and social affairs.
Related reports from today's Guardian:
VAT fraud costing Europe 50bn a year
Britain arms itself to stop VAT fraudsters escaping with billions