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Risk of Shell exiting the Netherlands over Dividend Tax 

Printed below is an English translation of an article published today by the Dutch Financial Times, Financieele Dagblad

Rutte: the risk that Shell will leave the Netherlands remains

The risk that large companies will leave the Netherlands as a result of maintaining the dividend tax remains. ‘Whether it is irresponsible will have to prove’, said Prime Minister Mark Rutte in the debate with the House on the cancellation of the controversial plan to abolish the tax on profit distributions.

“Shell has always been very open about how important it is for them,” Rutte said. But Unilever has not yet made a definitive choice. According to Rutte, the reduction of corporation tax is partly aimed at reducing the remaining risk of departure. ‘But we will have to work hard to keep these companies for the Netherlands’, says the Prime Minister.

According to Rutte, at least financial institutions are already running around the Netherlands with a big arc due to the strict ‘bonus cap’. ‘The consequences of our policy are visible and we hope that it will not become visible as a result of not abolishing the dividend tax’.

Completely untenable

However, according to CDA leader Sybrand Buma, the abolition of the dividend tax was ‘completely untenable’ when Unilever decided to refrain from concentrating its head office in Rotterdam. “On 5 October, it quickly became clear that the decision would not make it,” Buma said in the House on Tuesday.

When asked by Forum for Democracy leader Thierry Baudet if the House of Representatives was away at the time, he answered in the first place in the affirmative: ‘also’. According to Buma ‘there was a button’. Later he made the suggestion that one or more of the coalition partners would have forced the withdrawal after the decision of Unilever.

Rightly reconsider

When asked what changed that morning, the leader of the second government party said: “I have been hired to see when it is wise to make other choices. The Prime Minister said rightly: we are going to reconsider. ‘

Exactly what happened after Unilever CEO Paul Polman sent a text message to Rutte on Friday, the House kept busy because the prime minister and the government parties always said that the measure was not taken by one company, but apparently it was withdrawn because of a decision of one company.

VVD party leader Klaas Dijkhoff said that Unilever’s decision had led him to another ‘risk weighting’ of the dividend tax as a factor that companies would keep or attract in the Netherlands. ‘Unfortunately, it has not added enough persuasiveness’.

Much smarter

The third coalition partner, D66, said through party leader Rob Jetten that the new interpretation of the tax package is ‘much smarter’ than abolishing the dividend tax. In his opinion, Unilever’s course was also inevitable. ‘We were never in favor of abolition’.

The second main part of the debate that the House had on Tuesday about the cancellation of the intention was to spend € 1.9 billion on income that had not been included in the coalition agreement. The coalition wants to shift this amount back to companies in the form of lower corporation tax.

Turn back after March

The opposition is also putting its teeth back there. GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver calculated that € 4 billion goes to lower the profit tax, just as much as to district nursing or university education. The battle against it continues, he announced.

‘After March it has to be turned back’, says Klaver. Then there are provincial elections, which lead to new relations in the Senate. There the coalition parties now have a majority of only one senator who, according to current polls, loses them.

State Secretary Menno Snel also calculated that the tax reduction for companies, as a result of a simultaneous broadening of the base, amounts to ‘a maximum of half a billion’.

Rutte lost compass

PVV leader Geert Wilders found that the debacle with the dividend tax shows that ‘here is a prime minister who has lost his compass, which is a thing of the past’ after the sms of Polman. “How humiliating do you want it to be?” Wilders wants the increase of the low VAT rate to be reversed with the proceeds from the dividend tax.

He filed a vote of no confidence supported by the SP, Party for the Animals, Forum for Democracy, Think and the PvdA. According to PvdA leader Asscher, Rutte should have acknowledged that he had wrongly warned the House against the ‘irresponsible risk’ of not abolishing the dividend tax. Rutte insisted that it should still show that it was not irresponsible.

SGP employee Kees van der Staaij is pleased that the plan is out of the job. But as the only member of the opposition, he also showed appreciation for the measures that the government is now preparing to improve the business climate.

‘We will have to work hard to keep these companies for the Netherlands’, says Rutte. Photo: Peter Hilz / Hollandse Hoogte

According to CDA leader Buma, there was ‘a bud’ in the coalition after Unilever’s decision. Photo: Peter Hilz / Hollandse Hoogte


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