May 24, 2016 / 5:28 PM / a year ago

Luxembourg denies report it offers unwritten tax rulings

Luxembourg Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna looks on as he takes part in a plenary session during the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong, China January 18, 2016.Bobby Yip

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Luxembourg denied a report on Tuesday that it was offering multinationals tax rulings verbally rather than in writing to keep them secret from the grand duchy's EU partners.

The Belgian newspaper De Tijd cited what it said were several tax experts saying that large companies had started to conclude verbal deals with Luxembourg concerning their future tax payments.

"It is completely false," a spokesman for Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna said. "The aim of the ruling is to create legal certainties. If you were to do this orally, and I say 'were to' do it orally, because we don't do it orally, you wouldn't have this legal certainty."

EU members have agreed that from 2017 they will exchange information on the tax affairs of multinationals. Luxembourg says it has already started sharing information with some EU states, such as neighbouring Belgium.

Luxembourg, exposed by the "LuxLeaks" revelations of November 2014, has faced accusations from politicians and the media that it conspired with multinational companies to agree tax deals that deprived other European Union states of revenue.

The leaked documents showed that companies such as PepsiCo, AIG and Deutsche Bank secured deals with Luxembourg to slash their bills.

However, the country says others have similar arrangements. The European Commission has in fact investigated tax rulings in Luxembourg, Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands, so far ordering Luxembourg and the Netherlands to claw back tax due.

Belgian Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt, arriving for a meeting of euro zone finance ministers in Brussels, said unwritten tax rulings would be hard to defend as EU members pushed for greater transparency, adding he would ask Gramegna for clarification.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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