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Researchers Tax Law in Trouw on potential tax avoidance Cargill

Dutch newspaper Trouw investigated the tax position of multinational Cargill. Their conclusion? Cargill appears not to pay taxes over their profits. Trouw asked Jan van de Streek, Professor of Tax Law, and PhD candidate Josephine van der Have for an explanation. Prior to this, Van der Have had also assisted with the investigation.

New route to avoid taxes

Trouw published two related articles about a new ‘route’ that multinational Cargill appeared to be using to ‘evade taxes’. In order to do so, Cargill, an American enterprise, is allegedly using a tax structure that also involves the Netherlands. The eventual outcome of this route is that Cargill did not have to pay taxes over their profits in Luxembourg between 2019 and 2021. 

There is no explanation

The exact details and how this could have happened remain unclear. Publicly available information offers no explanation. The situation that has arisen is ‘rather mysterious’, according to Van de Streek and Van der Have in Trouw. 

When Trouw contacted Cargill for an explanation, the multinational adopted a ‘defensive attitude’, which ‘isn’t vey surprising’ to Van der Have. ‘[Van der Have] investigates why some companies have higher moral tax standards than others. 'It appears to make a difference whether there is a lot of direct contact with consumers. They tend to stay away when a company is receiving bad publicity due to tax avoidance.’

How the project came into being

The article is the result of some intensive investigative digging. Van der Have has supported the journalist with his research over the last few months. She provided this support as part of the research project ‘Tax Transparency’. Through this project, journalists can come into contact with Leiden researchers to help them interpret matters from a tax point of view.  

Impact: inquiry European Commission

Paul Tang, EMP on behalf of the Dutch labour party, immediately announced on Twitter that the articles in Trouw were reason for him to ask the European Commission to investigate and address the issue. His tweet: ‘It’s absolutely astonishing to read that everybody can use mystery means to bring taxes down to zero. Cargill abuses international tax regulations. Which is why I’ll be asking the European Commission to investigate and address the issue.’

Tang, who also claims to be known as ‘an activist in a suit’, explains Van der Have over the phone, ‘often sends in proposals to increase taxes for companies on an European level’.

Interested in finding out more?

The following articles have been published (in Dutch): 

You can also visit the research page of the research project ‘Tax Transparency’. This project is part of the research programme Limits of Tax Jurisdiction of the Department of Tax Law. 

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