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EU orders Belgium to recover unpaid taxes from 35 firms

Belgium

First published in the Wall Street Journal on 12 January 2016.

About 35 multinationals will be required to pay roughly €700 million ($765 million) in additional taxes in Belgium after European Union regulators ruled they had benefited from an illegal tax break.

After an 11-month investigation, the European Commission, the bloc’s top antitrust regulator, concluded Monday that a Belgian tax-discount plan for multinationals amounted to 'a very serious distortion of competition within the EU’s single market,' and ordered Belgium to recover the unpaid taxes.

Geert De Neef said multinationals might consider moving their headquarters to London, the Netherlands or Luxembourg, where headline corporate tax rates are lower than Belgium’s 34%. “Then you don’t need special tricks, you know it is acceptable for the European Commission,” Mr. De Neef said.

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The governments involved in the investigation have denied giving special treatment, and the companies have denied receiving it.

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