Welcome to tax haven Netherlands!

28 March 2013

Welcome to tax haven Netherlands!

Emile RoemerBy Emile Roemer

Parliament recently adopted a quite extraordinary motion. The hard right PVV, centre-right governing party the VVD and its centre-left coalition partners the PvdA, the seniors’ grouping 50+, the Christian fundamentalist SGP and the centrist D66 all wanted to make it clear that the Netherlands is no tax haven. So, you’d better watch out: don’t ever say that the Netherlands is a tax haven! That simply can’t be permitted, at least as long as all the evidence points, as it turns out, to the fact that the Netherlands is most certainly a tax haven.

The motion supported by these parties missed the mark by some distance. The Netherlands has some 23,000 post box companies: in a single building alone – 200, Prins Bernhardweg, Amsterdam - a total of 2670 firms are established in their official Dutch headquarters. These are firms where nobody is employed, where not a single computer can be found and where no telephone ever rings. What does ring is the till: these companies transmit €8,000,000,000,000 through our country each year. That’s Eight thousand billion euros!

A documentary on Dutch TV this week showed how this works. Major corporations such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Starbucks pay hardly any tax as a result of the fact that their complicated networks of firms and subsidiaries enables them to move their money around to avoid having to pay more. The Netherlands is an important link in this network.

In our country these corporations are obliged to pay no taxes on interest or royalties paid to parties abroad. In addition, multinationals can make secret arrangements with the tax authorities regarding their tax returns. Can we do this? Can we go along to the tax office with our tax returns and negotiate with them? No. For you and me that’s not on, but for multinationals it’s just fine.

Former British deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Dennis Healey always used to say that the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion was the width of a prison wall. I agree wholeheartedly. The Netherlands is an important link in a form of legalised theft as a result of which states the world over are losing hundreds of billions in tax revenues.

The Netherlands is a tax haven. Can I say that? Yes, I can.

Emile Roemer is leader of the SP.

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