The US has unleashed an unusually forthright attack on the European Commission, saying it was unfairly targeting American companies such as Apple, Amazon, Starbucks and McDonald’s in its drive against tax avoidance.Robert Stack, the US Treasury official in charge of international tax policy, visited Brussels on Friday to express Washington’s fears about bias in the commission’s high-profile tax investigations. He accused the EU of targeting funds that were owed to the US Treasury.
His remarks add to growing US-EU tensions on themes ranging from internet privacy to an antitrust inquiry into the alleged dominance of Google, the US technology giant.
Mr Stack’s intervention comes hard on the heels of last week’s visit by Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple, which could be on the hook for a back-tax bill running to billions of euros because of its fiscal arrangements in Ireland.“We are concerned that the EU commission appears to be disproportionately targeting US companies,” Mr Stack said after his meetings with EU competition officials.
Because tax policy is technically a competence of the member states, the commission has taken a novel and contentious approach to tackling the “sweetheart” tax deals given to leading multinationals by some EU countries.
The commission has argued that these accords constitute a form of illegal “state aid”, in effect defining tax rulings as an illegal subsidy that gives companies an unfair advantage over their rivals.
Margrethe Vestager, the commission’s competition chief, struck her first blow in October, ordering Luxembourg and the Netherlands to recoup tens of millions of euros in back taxes in cases involving Fiat and Starbucks. Last month, she also opened in a probe into McDonald’s, the fast-food chain.Mr Stack retorted that the EU was misguided in using the state-aid weapon retrospectively to override tax arrangements legally agreed with member states. “The retroactive application of these new approaches calls into question the basic fairness of the proceedings,” he said, adding that the tactic was liable to trigger uncertainty among US investors in Europe.
Most critically, Mr Stack said the EU was seeking to tax income that should ultimately be payable in the US. “We are greatly concerned that the EU commission is reaching out to tax income that no member state had the right to tax,” he said.
The retroactive application of these new approaches calls into question the basic fairness of the proceedings- Robert Stack, deputy assistant US Treasury secretary
Mr Stack also mentioned Washington’s fears that an unexpected consequence of the tax recoveries could be that the affected companies would claim credits in the US over the international tax demands. “If so US taxpayers would end up footing the bill for these state aid settlements.”
Ms Vestager has adamantly rejected accusations of bias and argues that she is trying to ensure that EU countries do not give special deals to selected multinationals, which would be unavailable to competitors, simply to secure investment.
EU officials are also dismissive of the US argument that state aid is a retroactive tool. They insist that it is long established, and has been used previously in tax cases. Ms Vestager has also been at pains to stress that America’s double-taxation treaties with EU countries should not become “double non-taxation treaties” with no corporate tax paid in either country.
Mr Stack’s comments are likely to ramp up an already tense stand-off. Members of the US Senate called earlier this month on US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to intervene and stop Ms Vestager imposing penalties on US companies.
The members of the Senate Finance Committee urged the EU “not to reach retroactive results that are inconsistent with internationally accepted standards,” adding that this would amount to a “direct threat” to US interests.
President Barack Obama also made criticisms last year, relating more generally to EU regulatory scrutiny of US technology companies, asserting that the probes were driven by the “commercial interests” of European companies that struggled to compete.
Pubblicato da ML a domenica, gennaio 31, 2016CLICCA SULL'ICONA DELLA MOSCA TZE-TZE E VOTA PER QUESTO POST!