Turning the tide: The Make Tax Fair Again debate

Can we call the Netherlands a tax haven? What measures
can we take to battle tax avoidance? Should we shift the tax burden from labor
to capital? These were some of the topics addressed by Dutch politicians during
the Make tax Fair Again Election debate, organized by Tax justice Netherlands
and De Balie.

During the debate,
moderated by journalist and economist Esther van Rijkswijk, Henk Nijboer
(PvdA), Steven van  Weyenberg (D66),
Arnold Merkies (SP), Martin van Rooijen (50Plus) and Tom van der Lee
(Groenlinks)  discussed their
perspectives on fair taxation and how their parties want to accomplish this.  The VVD and CDA were also invited but decided
to turn down the invitation.


© 2017 Jan Boeve

as key to success
While not everyone felt comfortable with using the term ‘Tax Haven’ to
describe the Dutch tax system. All parties agreed that the current system facilitates
tax avoidance and fosters inequality. International cooperation is seen as a
necessary measure to combat this. Even the more euro-critical parties
acknowledged the necessity of cooperation on an EU level in the fight against
tax avoidance by multinationals. Surprisingly 50Plus stood by the predominantly
left-wing parties and expressed their support for a minimum corporate income
tax on a European level.

. “Trying to fight globalization
individually (….) in practice this means that you dance to the tunes of big
corporations. You will hollow out democracy in your own country” [translation]
– Tom van der Lee (Groenlinks)

Who benefits?
The participating
parties together took critical stance towards the current tax system, agreeing
that tax tariffs for larger corporations should be raised. What however
remained a point of discussion was who would benefit from the financial gains if
this measure was to be taken. D66 proposed reinvesting this money into both
businesses and society by lowering the social charges for corporations. The
PvdA called this ‘morally perverse’, as it would reward companies that in the
past engaged with tax avoidance practices. According to the PvdA, everyone
should benefit equally from the financial benefits, suggesting that the money should
be reinvested in education and infrastructure.


© 2017 Jan Boeve

The fourth box
Poet Sjors Talsma
closed off the debate, proposing an original solution to tax evasion.  In his poem he suggested adding a fourth tax
box: conscience. “A tax on immorality, a refund for modesty” (Talsma). Perhaps
this best summarizes the fight against tax inequality. It is up to all of us to
take our responsibility and address tax evasion as immoral behavior. This
debate was a step in the right direction, providing fruitful ground for
cooperation between the participating parties.

The aftermath
The debate proved to be worthwhile in the
following days. In the debate, 50Plus
not only expressed its support for cooperation on a European level but also
publicly gave their approval for a motion, put forward by Arnold Merkies (SP).
The motion states that the Second Chamber should not postpone tackling the problem
of so-called hybrid mismatches till 2024. Hybrid mismatches can be described as
the arrangements that exploit differences in the tax systems of countries to
avoid paying any or less taxes (OECD, 2012). Two days after the event in De Balie,
the motion was discussed in the Second Chamber and accepted, with the support
of 50plus, a party that in the past had not been too concrete on tax evasion.

Tweet by Arnold Merkies (SP): “Chamber does not want the postponement of tackling tax routes hybrid mismatches. Motion has just been acceped. Cabinet wanted


till 2024″.



The debate on the 12th
of February was not a debate about the very existence of tax evasion nor the
gravity of the situation. It was a discussion about how to turn the tide. It
was a debate that made politicians step up against the immoral behavior of tax


OECD (2017). Hybrid Mismatch Arrangements. Tax Policy and Compliance Issues.

This blog is written by Yvette Hogenelst, intern Campaigning and Communications Governance and Financial Flows unit



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