Antilles tax havens must go

2 June 2008

Antilles tax havens must go

A situation in which the Dutch taxpayer invests € 2.2 billion in the Antilles, while the islands impose almost no tax on multinational corporations established there, is simply unfair, argues SP Member of Parliament Ronald van Raak on the eve of a debate on the issue..

Ronald van RaakThe Antilles, which remain for the time being joined in a single Dutch dependency, have financial problems. For years, more money has been spent than has been received in revenues. Ronald van Raak does not, however, believe that the answer to this lies in cuts in expenditure. "More should in fact be invested than happens currently," he asserts, "in health care, in education, in combating poverty. But the islands' own Council of Ministers must take the lead in this and increase income, which is certainly possible.” Van Raak's view is that the hundreds of corporations established in the Antilles which currently pay little or no tax should be required to do so. “We're talking here about multimillionaires and multinationals," he points out, "that pay nil percent in taxes, and so contribute nil percent to public services on the islands. Because of this, the poor get steadily poorer and the rich richer. We have to put an end to this system.”

Van Raak is aware of the fact that the problem will not be erased overnight. "I understand that you can't introduce Dutch tax rates in one go," he says, “but even if you set rates at 1 percent, you would have a great deal of additional income without frightening away the corporations. The economic interests of the islands could hardly be undermined by such a tax, when this sort of firm in any case employs almost no local labour, and doesn't invest its profits in Antillan society but rather shifts them all abroad."

In addition to the introduction of a tax regime for major corporations, Van Raak wants to see the Antillan tax services, which are hopelessly slow at assessing and collecting such taxes as do exist, shaken up. “You can go for years without paying a cent in taxes and nothing will happen," he says. "This means in effect that you are acting as a parasite on those who do pay up. This in turn encourages a kind of attitude to taxes which is corrosive to society as a whole. There is less money for investment, and confidence in the authorities is undermined. It's a vicious circle which must be broken."

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