Corporate tax in the Netherlands
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Corporate tax in the Netherlands deals with the tax payable in the Netherlands on the profits earned by companies. In general, a Dutch company is subject to 25% corporate tax ("vennootschapsbelasting") on its worldwide profits. However, certain items of income are exempt from tax and certain costs are non-deductible.
A Dutch company is subject to Dutch corporate tax on its worldwide profits, after taking into account tax deductible costs.
The 2013 Dutch corporate tax rate was 20% of the taxable income up to and including €200,000, above which the rate is 25%.
Certain items of income are exempt from Dutch corporate tax. The most important items of income that are exempt are:
- capital gains and dividends derived from qualifying subsidiaries ("participation exemption")
- income attributable to a foreign business enterprise ("permanent establishment").
Capital gains, dividends and profit participation loan interest derived from a qualifying subsidiary are fully exempt from corporate tax in the Netherlands ("participation exemption"). A subsidiary qualifies for the Dutch participation exemption when:
- the subsidiary is an active company, and
- the Dutch parent company holds an interest of at least 5% of such company.
Any income received by a Dutch company from a foreign branch is exempt from Dutch corporate tax, provided such branch is a permanent establishment or representative.
The Netherlands has been known internationally, since at least the 1970s, as a tax haven. A political debate about this issue started in 1977, when economist and social-democratic MP Flip de Kam published a book about corporations transferring large sums to Caribbean countries without paying Dutch corporate tax. Minister Van der Stee admitted that the country was internationally known as a tax haven, but refused to act, arguing that the problem could not be solved on a national level alone. The debate raged for years; in 1986, Representative Willem Vermeend estimated that the country's tax service missed some ƒ4 billion per year due to companies such as The Rolling Stones' holding bv's using the "Caribbean route".
Dutch tax laws have brought the country into conflict with the European Union several times, starting with strong criticism in the 1999 Primarolo Report. The Dutch government responded by having a group of high-ranking fiscal experts (known with the Ministry of Finance as the "Barbapapa group") create a smoke screen, changing the appearance of the fiscal system while leaving its structure intact.
Starting 2009, the "tax haven" label resurfaced and sparked political controversy when the White House issued a press release in which the Netherlands was mentioned as tax haven. According to various NGO's the Netherlands "can be seen as an intermediary tax haven for foreign corporations". In February 2013, the Dutch House of Representatives accepted a motion calling on cabinet members to "reject, and where possible in discussions to insist on not mentioning" the qualification of the country as a tax haven; the motion was drafted by MP Roland van Vliet, a former tax advisor with Ernst & Young. Economist Ewald Engelen estimated that at the time of the motion, the state earned some €1.5 billion in tax from €12 thousand billion being transferred through the country annually.
As of 2013[update], the country harbors holding companies for various multinationals, participates in more than a hundred bilateral tax treaties, and the various exemptions facilitate tax avoidance by corporations.
In June 2014 the EU initiated a new investigation relating to the Dutch corporate taxes as part of a State aid (European Union) case by the Directorate General for Competition. The case was specific to Starbucks. The investigation ended in October 2015, with the EC ordering Starbucks to pay up to €30 million in overdue taxes. The EC exposed in its decision a legal structure commonly used by companies established in the Netherlands to avoid corporate taxation, the so called Dutch BV-CV structure. In 2017, the EU initiated another State aid (European Union) investigation into a special deal on corporate taxation between the Dutch public administration and IKEA.
National and foreign companies known to have special agreements with the Dutch tax service include Starbucks, Microsoft and PostNL. A 2015 FOI request by de Volkskrant to unearth the agreements failed, because these secret agreements are not centrally administered by the Tax and Customs Administration; with even the House of Representatives not having access to them.
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