Every year, Jeroen Dijsselbloem gives €5.5 billion to multinationals

3 March 2017

Every year, Jeroen Dijsselbloem gives €5.5 billion to multinationals

Every year, the Netherlands loses €5.5 billion per annum as a direct result of tax deals with multinationals, every one of them a gift from Labour Party Finance Minister and chair of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem. For the same money we could add 3,000 men and women to the teaching staff of universities, 6,000 police or prison officers, and at least 70.000 additional health care staff. This would still leave us enough money to introduce decent maintenance grants for all students, reduce social housing rents by €400 a year and create tens of thousands of social workplaces for people who would not otherwise be able to find jobs. All of this would be possible if we were to put a stop to these tax deals.

More profit, less tax

There’s something funny going on in our country. Between 2000 and 2011, Dutch firms increased their profits by €8.1 billion, yet tax on these profits during the same period fell by €4.3 billion, a drop of 26%. More profit should provide more tax revenues, but the opposite happened. Employees picked up the bill for this, with tax on labour rising from 30% to 32.5% between 2004 and 2014. 54.5% of total taxation comes from labour, and only 18% from capital. The Netherlands scores badly in comparison to other countries in the region, moreover, with Belgian firms paying 23% of the total take, and those of Luxembourg 26%.

Netherlands Tax Haven

Multinationals use mailbox companies – 20,000 such ‘firms’ exist here - consisting of nothing more than a box with a postal address. As a result, the astonishing sum of $3,500 billion is funnelled through our country, money from which the Netherlands gains nothing, but with which we help multinationals to avoid paying taxes in other countries. A symbolic levy of just 0.1% on this amount would produce a sum of €3.3 billion. This contributes to our country being used extensively to launder money., as was recently revealed by the Panama Papers. The Netherlands is simply an ordinary tax haven.

Worse than the Antilles

Half of the biggest corporations in the US, those listed in the Fortune 500, maintain a postbox in the Netherlands in order to avoid taxes. Nineteen out of twenty of the biggest publicly listed companies in Portugal do the same, as do more than eight hundred German firms. According to the European Commission, no other member state offers multinationals so many possibilities for tax avoidance. We stand third in the global league table of tax havens, behind only Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, but only just ahead of recognised culprits such as Switzerland, Cyprus or even Curaçao.

Dijsselbloem’s Gifts

At this time of year everyone has to fill in his or her tax returns. Say you don’t feel like doing it? Can you call the Finance Ministry and make a deal? I’m afraid not. But multinationals most certainly can. The Netherlands has concluded more than 14,000 tax deals, far more than any other European country. The Labour Party’s Jeroen Dijsselbloem agreed to them all, to the tune of €5.5 billion. At the expense of tens of thousands of lecturers, police officers and care workers, of rents and student grants, of people who have lost their jobs. What I’d like to see is a tax deal for the Netherlands. What would you do with €5.5 billion?

This column first appeared, in the original Dutch, on the website The Post Online.

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