MPs have called on prime minister Mark Rutte to explain the new government’s decision to scrap the tax on dividends for a second time, amid mounting reports that Shell and Unilever put pressure on the coalition negotiators.
The move to scrap the tax, which will cost the treasury €1.4bn and only benefit foreign firms, was not included in any of the party manifestos and has been condemned by opposition parties.
Broadcaster NOS reported earlier on Thursday that it had been told Anglo Dutch firms Shell and Unilever and two other companies had urged the new coalition to scrap the tax.
‘There was a real threat that a couple of bigger Dutch firms would go to London,’ NOS correspondent Ron Fresen said.
Shell and Unilever have headquarters in both the Netherlands and Britain and both have been considering their position in a post-Brexit economy. Shell said on Wednesday it welcomed the new government’s decision. It has campaigned for the tax to be scrapped for at least 10 years.
Unilever has said it will decide by the end of the year whether or not to keep its dual headquarter structure. The company has also said that it is pleased with all measures which strengthen the Netherlands’ position as an international business centre.
Prime minister Mark Rutte has said repeatedly that the measure is needed to keep jobs and to make sure the Netherlands remains an attractive location for foreign firms.
However, leading economists and the government’s macro-economic think-tank CPB have also questioned the move.
During Thursday’s debate, GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver said the government had laid itself open to being ‘blackmailed’ by big companies.