Minister ready to get tough on shell companies, tax haven claims

EU sanctions huge chips maker takeover involving Dutch NXP

The cabinet on Friday gave its approval to junior finance minister Menno Snel’s plan to crack down on the shell company industry in the Netherlands in line with international and EU agreements. ‘We are going to make serious work of tackling letter box firms,’ Snel said after the weekly cabinet meeting. ‘Only companies which actually bring jobs will be welcomed here with open arms.’ The measures, which were all outlined in the coalition agreement, include a commitment to bring in a tax on royalties from 2021. U2, the Rolling Stones and Starbucks are among the companies taking advantage of the Netherlands's current zero tax rate on royalties. The junior minister told radio station BNR that the ‘robust package’ of measures are aimed at giving a serious knock to the Netherlands’ reputation as a tax haven. The Netherlands has been grappling with its image as a tax haven for several years and the new government has pledged to get tougher on shell companies. Some 10,000 shell, or letter-box, companies are based in the Netherlands and are primarily used to shift corporate earnings and obscure ownership.  More >

NS defends €0 supplement demand

EU sanctions huge chips maker takeover involving Dutch NXP Travellers using the direct intercity trains between Schiphol airport and Rotterdam no longer have to pay a supplement for the service outside rush hour, but still have to spend time buying a €0 ticket, the AD reported on Friday. Travellers are supposed to load the supplement onto their public transport smart cards before getting on the train, even though there is no extra fee to use the service. The NS admits that the procedure is a waste of time, but says that it does not want to tell passengers to ignore the supplementary ticket machines in certain periods. 'By always asking passengers to check in, we will stop them becoming confused,' spokesman Erik Kroeze said. Rikus Spithorst of the passenger lobby group Maatschappaij voor Beter OV told the paper that the rule is ridiculous. 'It is completely pointless and achieves nothing for the passenger,' he said. Travellers who have not 'bought' their €0 supplement could technically be hit with a fine, Kroeze told the paper. 'But in principle, we won't be issuing fines,' he said.  More >

‘Armed guards may shoot pirates at sea’

EU sanctions huge chips maker takeover involving Dutch NXP Dutch shipowners with vessels passing regularly through areas frequented by pirates will now be able to carry their own security guards who are permitted to carry arms and fire if necessary. A majority of MPs, including the coalition Christian party ChristenUnie, voted for the measure which was favoured by the maritime community, on Thursday evening, public broadcaster NOS  reported. Pirates have a heavy presence along the coast of Somalia in west Africa and in the Gulf of Aden and have seized many merchant vessels in the past, despite patrols by the  EU’s anti-pirate mission. Shipowners have been asking to be allowed to employ private security guards who can use force for many years. MPs have now agreed, with the proviso that the guards are equipped with bodycams and a 360-degree sound camera is mounted on the ship itself. This means officials can evaluate any incidences afterwards to determine whether force was actually necessary. Denmark, Spain, Norway and Britain already allow shipping firms to use private security guards when travelling close to the Somali coast.  More >

Hema opens 200th store outside NL

EU sanctions huge chips maker takeover involving Dutch NXP Dutch high street staple Hema opened its 200th store outside the Netherlands in Barcelona on Thursday. Hema, which is in the midst of a substantial expansion programme, now operates more than 700 outlets in nine European countries, the Telegraaf reported on Friday. Hema said it is also looking into markets where it does not already have a presence. Two stores are to be opened in Austria in April and a number of Hemas will open their doors in Dubai before summer. The Dutch company is also looking into additional stores elsewhere in the Middle East. ‘We hope to open at least 35 stores outside the Netherlands this year and will acelerate our international expansion the coming years,’ said Hema chairman Tjeerd Jegen. Hema mostly opens stores in large cities abroad to speed up brand awareness.   More >

Coalition divided over trader bonuses

EU sanctions huge chips maker takeover involving Dutch NXP Finance minister Wopke Hoekstra has been called to heel by his coalition partners over plans to exempt high frequency trading houses from new rules on bonuses, the Financieele Dagblad said on thursday. Hoekstra said earlier this week that he wanted to exempt companies which trade for their own account from the 20% bonus ceiling, which is due to come into effect in 2020. He argued at the time that implementing the bonus ceiling would lead to a 'substantial part' of Amsterdam's trading industry leaving the country. However, three of the four coalition parties, including Hoekstra's own CDA, do not agree and say they want the minister to refrain from taking any 'irreversible steps' pending a European review of the bonus rules in two years' time. Companies such as FlowTraders, TMF Optiver and IMC are among the high speed trading houses based in the Netherlands and, according to the Financieele Dagblad, have a tradition of paying their staff relatively low salaries and large bonuses. The Netherlands imposes stricter regulations for financial sector bonuses than the rest of the European Union. Bankers in the Netherlands can receive a maximum of 20% of their fixed salary as a bonus each year. The maximum in the rest of the EU is 100% of regular pay. However, these regulations are politically sensitive. The banks themselves and other critics argue they hinder companies and their employees from settling in the Netherlands. In particular, they say, the bonus cap is a barrier to large banks faced with leaving London in the wake of Brexit.  More >