By Peter Teffer/ euobserver.com
The Netherlands’ tax regime is enabling a Canadian gold mining company to pay less tax in Greece, a report by a Dutch foundation concluded Monday (30 March).
The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations found that Greece has missed out on at least €1.7 million in tax revenues, because the company, Eldorado Gold, profited from the Dutch tax rules.
The report comes as the Greek government is under pressure from countries like the Netherlands to increase its tax collection to meet its cash shortage.
Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who also leads the group of eurozone finance ministers, has repeatedly stated that Greece should improve its method of collecting taxes, an irony which was not lost on the authors of the report, Fool’s Gold.
“While Greece’s failure to levy taxes due from certain professions and low tax morale are certainly a problem for resource mobilisation, the public debate in Greece, and that led by the EU and IMF, has primarily focused on wealthy individuals and particular segments of the population that were granted preferential treatment. Tax avoidance by large and often foreign companies … has been largely excluded in public and policy discussions. Incidentally this tax avoidance is facilitated by EU member states such as the Netherlands and Luxembourg”.
According to the researchers, “tax avoidance using legal yet aggressive tax planning methods is widespread in Greece”.
Eldorado Gold has 12 subsidiary companies in the Netherlands, with almost €2 billion in assets. However, only one of those subsidiaries has any employees (three).
While tax evasion is illegal, tax avoidance is not. However, the practice is under renewed scrutiny since last year, when a trove of leaked documents showed how widespread the practice was in Luxembourg, which like other countries concluded tax rulings which benefited multinationals.
The European Parliament has set up a special committee to investigate these tax rulings. On Monday it will hold an exchange of views with EU tax commissioner Pierre Moscovici.
The NGO urges policymakers “to take political and policy steps to coordinate better and implement binding legislation to end tax base erosion and profit shifting by large multinationals”.
A Dutch MP from the Socialist Party told Dutch newspaper NRC the practice “has to stop”.
“Greece needs the EU to get its tax collection in order. A member state like the Netherlands should not help multinationals do the opposite”, said Arnold Merkies.