'Times are changing, pay your taxes', euro zone chief tells corporations

Sat Sep 10, 2016 8:57am EDT
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By Francesco Guarascio and Jason Hovet

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Multinational companies should refrain from tax-avoidance practices and pay their fair share, the head of euro zone finance ministers said on Saturday in a new endorsement of the European Union's fight against tax-dodging.

In the wake of the 'Panama Papers' revelations of widespread tax-avoidance practices, Brussels has toughened up its drive for fairness by tightening controls and adopting stricter rules.

The recent shock multi-billion euro tax demand on Apple AAPL.O was part of that trend as the EU also drafts plans for a common corporate tax base and a single European blacklist for tax havens.

"My message to those companies is you are fighting the wrong battle. You have to move on. Times are changing," the head of the eurogroup and Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem told reporters on arriving at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Bratislava.

"You need to pay your taxes in a fair way. Part of that would be in the U.S., part of that would be in Europe. So get ready to do that," Dijsselbloem added.

The Commission, which is in charge of protecting market competition in Europe, is investigating multinationals' tax arrangements in several EU countries to assess whether, by lowering corporations' tax bills, illegal state aid may have been given.

Online retailer Amazon.com Inc AMZN.O and hamburger group McDonald's Corp MCD.N face European Commission probes over taxes in Luxembourg, while coffee chain StarbucksCorp SBUX.O has been ordered to pay up to 30 million euros ($33 million) in back-taxes to the Dutch state.

The Netherlands has appealed against the Commission's decision, and Ireland did the same in the Apple case, fearing it could undermine the country's long-established policy of attracting multinationals with low taxes.   Continued...

Dutch Finance Minister and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem reacts during a European Union finance ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium, July 12, 2016. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir