Edited by Brigitte Unger and Daan van der Linde
Chapter 23: Is the Netherlands a tax h(e)aven?
Every now and then newspaper reports naming the Netherlands as a tax haven pop up as brands like Ikea, Prada, Microsoft or The Rolling Stones are all seen to be located in the Netherlands, partly to take advantage of the Dutch fiscal regime. On May 4, 2009, President Obama called the Netherlands a low tax country because one third of US companies’ profits from abroad come from just three jurisdictions: Bermuda, Ireland and the Netherlands (The White House 2009). The media later replaced this phrase by the term ‘tax haven’ (De Volkskrant 2009; NRC Handelsblad 2009). Afraid of the consequences, this statement resulted in immediate protests by the Dutch government, claiming the Netherlands should not be mentioned together with preferential regimes or even true tax havens. As a result, the entire sentence was retroactively removed from the press release the next day and a few weeks later no one was talking or writing about it anymore. This, however, seems to be a general taxonomy: as soon as such statements pop up they disappear from the media attention and the political agenda, only to come back as shocking news just a few months later. Indeed, in October 2009 the Dutch TV program Zembla had been broadcast on national television under the heading ‘Obama was right.
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