SP proposal for improvements in Antilles tax system wins broad support

5 June 2008

SP proposal for improvements in Antilles tax system wins broad support

The Dutch Antilles needs a better tax system. This message was received loud and clear – and from all sides of the House - by Secretary of State for Home Affairs Ank Bijleveld during Wednesday's parliamentary meeting on the Antilles tax havens. In the view of the SP and other parties, the tax system must change to enable more investment from major corporations and rich Antillans in education, health care and the fight against poverty.

Ronald van RaakSP Member of Parliament Ronald van Raak began early in 2007 to look into the question of taxation in the Dutch Antilles, which remains an autonomous dependency of the Netherlands. That status will shortly change, with the islands having held referenda offering various options. Though some islands voted to separate from each other administratively, and some wish to become Dutch "gemeenten" (local authorities), votes for the option of outright independence were negligible. Retaining the right to control most of their own domestic law, the islands have evolved into tax havens, attracting the registration of numerous multi-national corporations (MNCs) seeking to avoid paying taxes. Van Raak's investigations revealed the existence of at least fifteen "special economic zones" within which firms pay little or nothing in tax. "The islands are the victims of tax competition, which renders small states powerless in the face of international enterprises, of MNCs," he says. "On Curaçao alone there are more than 330 corporations which barely pay any tax. Some of these are no more than a postbox where mail is collected. Sometimes they are multinationals, such as the American oil transfer firm Valero on Sint Eustatius.”

Van Raak adds that “even outside the so-called 'e-zones' ethical standards regarding taxes are undermined. Not everyone seems to receive a tax return, far from it, and not everyone, again far from everyone, seems in reality to pay any taxes at all. What's more, Curaçao recently announced that it was going to lower a range of taxes."

Currently negotiations are proceeding on the proposed new relations between the islands and the Netherlands state, with the latter holding out the prospect of the writing-off of €2 billion in debt. MPs from the governing centre-right Christian Democrats (CDA), the right-wing opposition liberals of the VVD, and from the Green Left all supported the SP's demand that solidarity from the Dutch taxpayer can only be expected if rich Antillans are also prepared to make a contribution.

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