The United States is to remove the Netherlands from its list of tax havens after protests from the Dutch ambassador in Washington, junior finance minister Jan Kees de Jager told reporters late on Tuesday night.
On Monday US president Barack Obama had announced a series of measures to shut down offshore tax havens which could have implications for American firms with Dutch subsidiaries.
A briefing note attached to the announcement stated that 83 of the 100 largest US corporations have subsidiaries in tax havens, most notably the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Ireland and the Netherlands.
And the Netherlands, Bermuda and Ireland claimed nearly a third of all foreign profits reported in 2003 by US corporations, the briefing note said.
The Netherlands reacted angrily to the claims. The Netherlands is not a low tax country, but has ‘average taxes’, a spokesman for the finance ministry said. Speaking in Brussels, finance minister Wouter Bos said the claim could damage the country’s reputation and was ‘completely wrong’.
The US will now remove the Netherlands from the list of three and make clear it was a mistake, a spokesman for De Jager told the Financieele Dagblad.
He also admitted the Netherlands is attractive to foreign companies and that many US holdings are based here. But this is not because of the tax advantages they are offered, the paper quoted the minister as saying.
Albert Hollander, chairman of the Tax Justice NL campaign group, told the Volkskrant he could understand the US’s irritation. ‘The Netherlands says ‘use my legal system to avoid paying taxes in other countries. There are tens of thousands of letter box companies here, creating an industry of thousands of jobs.’
In 2006, researchers at the multinational research foundation SOMO said more than 20,000 multinationals and private individuals – including the Rolling Stones and U2 – are based in the Netherlands in order to cut their tax bills elsewhere.
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