April 10, 2019 / 4:40 PM / 2 months ago

Dutch MPs - Shell must attend hearing on tax avoidance

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Members of the Dutch parliament’s financial affairs committee on Wednesday said they will insist that Shell send a representative to attend a hearing on tax avoidance by multinationals next week.

FILE PHOTO: A Shell sign at one of the oil major's petrol stations in Ulm, Germany, April 6, 2017. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/File Photo

Shell’s Dutch Chief Executive had previously declined an invitation, saying it made more sense for the Netherlands’ business association to represent all taxpaying companies.

But at a meeting of the committee on Wednesday, politicians of all parties said they wanted Shell to attend. Lawmaker Pieter Omtzigt said in a statement the parties had unanimously asked parliament’s chairwoman to “forcefully” ask Shell to come.

Shell’s corporate structure features a parent company headquartered in The Hague but two share classes and other arrangements to prevent the Dutch government from levying withholding tax on dividends paid to shareholders of its former British arm.

The unusual arrangement has come under renewed scrutiny after the Dutch government tried to scrap the dividend tax as part of plans to convince Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever to unify its headquarters in Rotterdam. Prime Minister Rutte gave up the idea after a popular outcry against the tax cut, which was seen as a gift to rich foreigners.

Shell has consistently lobbied against the dividend tax, which it says makes financing dividends, share buy-backs and acquisitions more difficult.

A spokesman for Shell said on Wednesday the company has not yet received any formal request to attend the April 18 meeting in parliament.

If it receives one, it will consider it, he said.

In a statement on its Dutch website, Shell Netherlands Chief Executive Marjan van Loon said the company pays all taxes it owes.

“Think of taxes on profit, royalties, employee taxes, value added tax and excise taxes,” she said in a statement dated April 9. “We are completely open to the Dutch tax authority.”

The statement said Shell had paid more than $10 billion in profit tax and $6 billion in royalties in 2018. It said Shell’s global effective tax rate is 33 percent.

Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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