Around half of the biggest multinationals in Spain, Italy and Portugal use the Netherlands to reduce their tax bill in their home country, the Volkskrant reported at the weekend.
The paper looked 83 southern European companies which are included in the Forbes 2000 list of the world’s biggest multinationals to try to find out how much national governments are losing in tax income.
Of the 83 companies, the paper says 46 definitely or almost certainly use shell companies to avoid taxes. In seven cases, the Portuguese, Italian or Spanish state is a shareholder, the paper said.
Eighteen of the 34 big Italian firms, 18 of the 26 biggest Spanish multinationals and eight of the nine Portuguese firms have Dutch letterbox firms. Just two of the 14 big Greek companies are using Dutch letterbox firms, one of which was Coca Cola’s Greek bottling plant.
Economist Rick van der Ploeg told the paper agreements need to be made at a European level to stop a ‘race to the bottom’. Tax deals should only be possible to attract real companies with real factories, the paper quoted him as saying.
Companies using the Netherlands to reduce their domestic tax bill include Prada, Telefonica, car-maker Fiat and Spanish fashion giant Inditex.
Most of the Dutch holding companies have no staff and ‘shunt hundreds of millions of euros in dividends and interest through the Netherlands,’ the Volkskrant said.
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