EU targets tax haven Belgium

The EU Commission ruled on Monday that Belgium must recover roughly 700 million euros given to businesses in the form of unlawful tax breaks. Who will benefit from the decision?

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Delo (SI) /

Effective taxation for big companies needed

Tax breaks for international companies are unacceptable and harmful, writes the centre-left daily Delo, calling for tougher action from the European Commission:

“The EU Commission must be more effective in cracking down on tax havens for its fight for fairer taxation to be successful. The Commission also needs to be more effective when it comes to building a pan-European system for taxing companies. If it isn't, it won't be able to stamp out the practice of tax dumping. The attempts so far to set up such a system have been blocked at the EU level by individual member states on a regular basis. No one wants to dispense with the right to compete and use aggressive methods to attract investments.”

The Guardian (GB) /

EU must go after big companies

The European Commission's approach is in keeping with the traditional view of the EU as a guarantee for the social market economy, the centre-left daily The Guardian comments approvingly:

“A significant part of popular support for the EU derives from the promises made by Jacques Delors and Helmut Kohl (to name but two of the biggest beasts) that it would act as a social market, standing up for European social standards in the face of globalisation. If it wants to make good on those promises, the European commission needs to go after precisely such cases where multinationals are getting a sweet deal at the expense of ordinary Europeans. Continental governments cannot simultaneously impose austerity on their voters and shower cash on giant businesses that invest in them.”

Libération (FR) /

EU not condemned to ultra-liberalism

The centre-left daily Libération looks at why it has taken the EU so long to crack down on illegal tax breaks like those in Belgium:

“For fifteen years the Europeans, and in particular the Commission presided over by the Portuguese politician José Manuel Durao Barroso (2004-2014), believed in the fable of happy capitalism championed by the British and the Americans: that of a free fox in a free chicken coop. The crisis from 2007 - 2008 revealed the truth. Now the fiscal and social competition between states that are supposed to be participating in the same political project is deemed politically and socially unacceptable by the citizens - hence by the states and also by the Commission. This is proof that the Union is not condemned to 'ultra-liberalism' by European treaties that have been 'written in stone'. It is simply a political Union.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Belgium must collect missing tax revenues

The centre-left daily De Morgen is surprised that the government plans to contest the decision:

“Strange. In that case the government shouldn't be surprised if people say the only way it wants to save money is by slashing welfare payments. ... The golden years of tax evasion are over. Thanks to Lux Leaks and other scandals, a growing number of people believe that this form of unfair tax advantage is no longer acceptable. For the very large majority of people who have no choice but to obediently pay their taxes, this is very good news indeed.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Small firms should benefit from recovered taxes

Belgium could lose its locational advantage if it introduces sweeping taxes, the liberal daily La Libre Belgique writes, and hopes that more funds can be set aside for small and medium sized companies:

“In essence the system was perfectly legal and not at all a fraud-like mechanism. The businesses benefited from it in good faith. Abolishing the mechanism means increasing legal instability - which is already a thorn in the side of many companies. ... The firms that benefited from the tax breaks paid no taxes on 50 to 90 percent of their profits. Consequently the Belgian tax system seems too kind to international companies and hard on small and medium-sized firms, even though the latter provide many jobs. These small and medium enterprises must be supported with further tax relief. If the state was able to do without the 700 million euros in tax revenues from multinationals which it will now be getting back, part of that money should go towards helping other companies.”