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Dutch PM vows to release controversial tax plan memos

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (R), seen here on April 12, 2018, has pledged to release all memos about a controversial tax plan
AFP

The Hague (AFP) – Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte pledged Monday to release all memos about a controversial plan to scrap dividend tax amid heavy opposition criticism of the move which will reportedly cost the country 1.4 billion euros.

Rutte’s four-party ruling coalition plans to scrap the tax on company dividends from 2020, saying it will help make the Netherlands more attractive to overseas investment.

But the opposition in the 150-seat lower house of parliament has lashed out at the proposals, adding that none of the coalition parties mentioned the plan in their manifestos ahead of a 2017 general election.

The move was revealed when Rutte, leader of the business-friendly VVD party, formed his third coalition government late last year after months of behind-the-scenes wrangling.

Opposition parties are now seeking an explanation as to how the tax plan was discussed, and have demanded to see internal memos sent to the coalition parties during the government formation talks. 

Dutch news reports said the paperwork will be sent to the lower house on Tuesday, but that a clash is expected when the issue is debated.

Coalition leaders including Rutte have for months denied knowledge of any formal documents.

“The opposition wants to see the documents because there is a feeling that it’s an expensive measure… with no guarantee it will actually attract more investment,” the Dutch NOS public broadcaster said.

Rutte admitted Friday that internal memos may well exist, but said they could not be made public because of confidentiality issues.

But in a U-turn Monday after the opposition outcry, the premier said the documents will now be released.

“We will do this once, but we can’t do it with all issues, otherwise it will become impossible to form a government in the Netherlands,” Rutte told reporters.

The eurozone’s fifth-largest economy has been seen as a tax haven in the past, but the government has pledged to try to attract genuine investment, rather than so-called “shell” or “letterbox” companies — including through the scrapping of dividend tax.  

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