The tax office has been accused of breaking the law by leaking confidential information to Uber about other European countries’ strategies for regulating the company.
Officials also obstructed requests for information from other countries and lobbied the French government to take a more positive view of the American firm.
In France president Emmanuel Macron is under fire over claims of a secret deal to help Uber break into the country’s tightly regulated taxi trade.
The revelations form part of the Uber Files, an investigation based on 124,000 documents leaked by Uber’s former chief lobbyist, Mark MacGann to The Guardian and seen by newspapers including Trouw and the Financieele Dagblad.
Internal emails, minutes of meetings and app messages show Uber enjoyed a ‘very strong relationship’ with the Dutch tax administration (Belastingdienst) as it tried to break through in Europe from 2014.
The documents show the company was able to obtain details of other countries’ plans to tax the company, allegedly through contacts at the Belastingdienst.
When authorities in Sweden and the UK asked the Netherlands for details of drivers’ earnings so they could determine how much tax they should claim, Rob van der Woude, head of Uber’s financial affairs, in Europe, said the tax office had given the issue its ‘absolute lowest priority’.
Uber set up its European headquarters in 2017 and subsequently set up a tax shelter for some 50 shell companies when it transferred its intellectual property rights from Bermuda to the Netherlands in 2019.
Van der Woude also wrote that Dutch tax officials tried to influence efforts by the French government to make its branch office in France pay tax. He said the tax office was prepared to ‘speak to the French informally to encourage them to drop the claim’.
A director of the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency asked finance ministry officials how the flow of information to Brussels and other EU nations could be slowed down during a meeting at the Dutch consulate in San Francisco.
Deliberately delaying responses to requests from other tax jurisdictions is in breach the obligations EU member states have to share information with each other. ‘It is highly irregular for the taxman to let himself be co-opted in this way,’ former government tax adviser Tim van Brederode told the FD.
Lotte Rooijendijk of anti-corruption organisation Transparency International Nederland said the ‘preferential financial treatment’ enjoyed by Uber undermined the trust of ordinary taxpayers. ‘They can’t escape the tax burden or make agreements behind closed doors the way Uber does.’
The tax office denied to the newspaper that its employees breached confidentiality rules or held up requests for information from other countries to give Uber an advantage.
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