Officials warned minister about big firm tax deals in secret report

‘We risk not being able to do our job,’ warns audit office chief

A confidential report reveals rulings the Dutch tax office has made with large companies to make the country more fiscally attractive to them, Trouw reported on Wednesday. In the report, tax officials warned junior finance minister Eric Wiebes that many of the Dutch rulings were coming under the scrutiny of the EU and the OECD. Both are working on measures to combat tax avoidance. Trouw has seen the document which details the most important agreements between the tax office and big companies. Parliament has never seen the document, dating back to 2015, despite several requests for more openness on the subject. The report sums up Dutch government policy in the international discussion about tax avoidance, said Leiden university law professor Jan Vleggeert. 'In short, we have no problem at all in helping companies avoid taxes just so long as it is not illegal. It is legal, we earn money on it, so why should we stop?' The tax officials warned that some of the rulings were very controversial while others are of great benefit to letterbox companies operated by non-Dutch companies.  Moreover the Dutch tax office rarely shared information with its counterparts in other countries, Trouw said. Ikea and Starbucks Last year, Wiebes refused to give MPs in parliament’s finance committee a confidential briefing on the deal made between the Dutch tax office and Swedish furniture group Ikea. Although MPs technically have the right to the information, Wiebes turned down the request, saying the confidentiality aspects are more important than MPs’ right to know. Wiebes has also been under fire over a deal struck with Starbucks. And last year, business magazine Quote claimed Google pushed €11bn in royalty payments through a letterbox firm in the Netherland with no employees and which paid just €2.7m in tax. The Dutch tax office has made 14,619 advance tax agreements with international companies since 1991 and refused a further 1,590, the Financieele Dagblad said in June.  More >

Social media more popular with jobseekers

‘We risk not being able to do our job,’ warns audit office chief Traditional job vacancy sites are losing ground to social media for Dutch jobseekers, research company Intelligence Group reported on Wednesday. There is no shortage of job vacancy companies, web sites and apps in the Netherlands for job seekers. But when queried about their favourite online job sites, a group of about 15,000 people in employment named Indeed (16%) and LinkedIn (13%) as the best sources for jobs. Jobs website NationaleVacaturebank was in third place, mentioned by 9% of respondents, but this is down 25% on the previous survey. In 2015, LinkedIn was the overall most popular site, but in 2016 Indeed registered 48% growth over the year while LinkedIn fell back by 6%. Facebook attracted 5% more jobseekers last year. Both hope for improved popularity this year. LinkedIn has redesigned its jobs vacancy section and Facebook has added features to attract people seeking jobs.  More >

Four in 10 Dutch teens have a job

‘We risk not being able to do our job,’ warns audit office chief Dutch teenagers are most likely to have a job as a supermarket shelf stacker, behind the till or delivering newspapers, the national statistics office CBS said on Tuesday. In total, four in 10 Dutch teenagers have a job, with eight in 10 working not more than 12 hours a week. Youngsters at university or hbo college are less likely to work than students in vocational training or at secondary school, the CBS said.   More >

Audit office chief warns about budget cuts

‘We risk not being able to do our job,’ warns audit office chief Such major budget cuts have been imposed on the government audit office Algemene Rekenkamer that there is a risk officials will not be able to do their job properly, according to the organisation’s annual report. The same situation is facing other organisations charged with monitoring the impact of government policy, such as the Council of State advisory board and the national ombudsman, audit office president Arno Visser said. This makes it more difficult to assess if taxpayers’ money is being spent properly, he told broadcaster NOS. ‘Over the past 15 years, for example, we have followed the billions of euros spent on the JSF jet fighter project,’ he told broadcaster NOS. ‘But when the next big project comes along, we will have to see if we can do the same thing.’ Sufficient counter-balance is key to keep the government on its toes, Visser said. Job cuts at the office have led to 40 redundancies in the past year, following a €3m budget cut.  More >

Campaign raises €17.5m for famine relief

‘We risk not being able to do our job,’ warns audit office chief The Netherlands is holding a day of action to raise money for famine relief in Africa on Wednesday. The campaign, which officially kicked off on Saturday, has already raised €17.5m, of which €2m came from the government. The money will be spent on famine relief in southern Sudan, northeastern Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen where some 20 million people face an acute shortage of food. All day a panel of celebrities are manning the phones to accept donations and fund raising efforts have been organised all over the country. Their efforts are being monitored live on Radio 2. The campaign for Africa is part of the Giro555 initiative, the bank account which Dutch aid groups use to collect funds. The last campaign, two years ago, raised €25m for victims of the Nepal earthquake.  More >