The vote on a motion proposed by Dutch labour parliamentarian Paul Tang was tied at 327 for and 327 against – a result which means in the European parliament that a motion is denied. Tang had also wanted to include Malta, Ireland and Luxembourg on the tax haven list.
The vote was particularly notable among Christian Democrat MEPs with Dutch MEPs voting against the motion and Germans voting in favour, broadcaster NOS said.
Tang told NOS after the vote that the fight for fair taxation would continue. ‘Everywhere I go, I hear criticism of tax pirates such as Ireland and the Netherlands,’ he said.
CDA MEP Esther de Lange said the conflict is between the big and small European countries. ‘The big countries have a competitive edge compared with small countries because it is more attractive for foreign firms to base themselves in a larger market.
‘So when they criticise the Netherlands’ attractiveness as a place to do business they are really talking to their own voters. This situation does not make the discussion or tackling the problem any easier,’ she said.
Tang’s motion follows the publication last week of a list of 17 potential tax havens drawn up by the European Commission. That list did not include a single EU country.
Researchers at the University of Amsterdam said this summer the Netherlands is the biggest conduit to offshore tax havens in the world, with almost a quarter of fiscal constructions having a Dutch link.
Other research published by the NRC in July showed that multinational companies that register a headquarters operation in the Netherlands can receive very substantial discounts – up to 80% – on their corporate tax bills.
Last year, the Netherlands ranked third in Oxfam’s annual list of the world’s top 15 tax avoidance centres. Bermuda and the Cayman Islands topped the list.
The high score is due largely to the large scope of tax avoidance by multinational companies which operate through the Netherlands, Oxfam said. Other European countries making the list are Switzerland (4), Ireland (6), Luxembourg (7) and Cyprus (10).