New Commission probe hits home on EU tax havens’ flat-pack tax deals

Published: 18th December 2017

The European Commission has today opened a state aid probe into the tax affairs of furniture giant Ikea with the Netherlands.

Oxfam’s Policy Advisor on tax and inequality, Aurore Chardonnet, said:

“The European Commission shows real willingness to shine a light on harmful tax practices offered by some EU member states to large companies. Two weeks after the EU adopted its first tax havens blacklist, this new case shows Europe still has to put its own house in order when it comes to ending tax havens within the EU.

“We need more transparency on tax but countries such as Germany, Ireland and Luxembourg are blocking progress on rules that would help end the era of tax havens by requiring companies to report how much profit they make and how much tax they pay in each country. Two months after the Paradise Papers scandal this can no longer be tolerated.

“Investigations into dodgy tax deals are needed but won’t end the problem. Europe has to get tough on the aggressive tax deals EU countries offer to big companies so they can get away paying less than their fair share of taxes, in Europe and in developing countries.”

Notes to editors

  • Spokespeople are available for interviews and background.
  • In this case, the EU is probing two rulings between Inter Ikea and the Dutch government, one from 2006-2011 dealing with the royalties paid by Inter Ikea, one of the two groups operating the IKEA business, to a Luxembourg holding owning intellectual property, and another one from 2011 involving an intercompany loan from Lichtenstein and the reduction of the taxable income of Inter Ikea in the Netherland through the payment of interests. 
  • This new investigation follows earlier Commission decisions on tax deals by Luxembourg with Amazon and FiatIreland with Apple  as well as the Netherlands with Starbucks. The European Commission has also declared illegal selective tax advantages granted by Belgium under its "excess profit" tax scheme, which has benefitted at least 35 multinational companies. The European Commission is currently investigating Luxembourg’s tax deals with McDonald’s in December 2015, with ENGIE in September 2016 and UK tax scheme linked with the British Controlled Foreign Company (CFC) rules.
  • On December 5th, EU finance ministers adopted the first EU blacklist of tax havens. The list includes 17 mostly small countries. The EU has also published an additional grey list of 47 countries that currently qualify as tax havens, but have promised reforms.
  • In November 2017, Oxfam published the report ‘Blacklist or whitewash?’, showing what a robust blacklist of tax havens would look like if the EU were to objectively apply its own criteria and not bow to political pressures. Oxfam concluded that at least 35 non-EU countries should be included in the EU tax haven blacklist. In addition, 4 EU member states fail the EU’s own criteria: Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Malta.
  • On December 13th, the European Parliament adopted the report by its Panama Papers inquiry committee and voted in favor of recommendations aimed at stopping corporate tax avoidance across the European Union.

Contact information

Florian Oel | Brussels | | office +32 2 234 11 15 | mobile +32 473 56 22 60

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