Update on ‘illegal’ Belgian tax row following flood of court cases

BASF joins multinationals challenging Commission's 'illegal' tax ruling

By Annie Harrison-Dunn contact

- Last updated on GMT

BASF was one of the 35 multinationals that benefited from the state-sanctioned tax scheme that saw an overall €700 million in taxes go unpaid. ©iStock/Piotr Adamowicz
BASF was one of the 35 multinationals that benefited from the state-sanctioned tax scheme that saw an overall €700 million in taxes go unpaid. ©iStock/Piotr Adamowicz

Related tags: European union

German chemical giant BASF has joined the seven companies and the Belgian government taking legal action against the European Commission for its ruling that a generous Belgian tax scheme was illegal.

On Friday (5th August), the company said in a statement: “BASF is one of the companies affected by the Commission’s decision about the tax scheme in Belgium. We are closely following the development while considering our legal options.”

However this morning BASF confirmed that it has filed a law suit against the Commission. It declined to give further information on the case. 

In January the Commission ruled that generous selective tax advantages granted by the Belgian government under its ‘excess profit’ scheme were illegal under EU state aid rules.

The Commission said at least 35 multinationals had benefited from the tax scheme, and ordered the companies to return the estimated total of €700 million in unpaid taxes to the Belgian taxman.

Seven challenges 

Seven companies, including US-headquartered capsule maker Capsugel – which negotiated a 60-80% net profit before tax (NPBT) exemption – are now challenging the Commission in the EU courts.

BASF's confirmation now brings that count up to eight. 

Capsugel claims the Commission “committed an error of law and a manifest error of assessment” ​in its ruling on the tax scheme and “failed to state the reasons”​ for its decision.  

Read more on the issue​ HERE​.

The Commission is also facing a court appeal from the Belgian government​ on similar grounds.  

In a statement the Commission said all its decisions are subject to the scrutiny of EU courts.

“The Commission stands by its decision and will defend it in Court," ​a spokesperson told us.

Balancing the books 

BASF's NPBT exemption was not disclosed in Commission documents​, but the record shows the deal was renewed four times since 2005.  

Asked how much the tax deal was worth to the company, BASF said it did not give detailed information on its tax situation in individual countries.

BASF posted​ sales of €70,449m and an EBIT of €6,248m for the 2015 business year.

UK healthcare company Omega Pharma was also one of the 35 multinationals to benefit from the tax scheme, negotiating a NPBT exemption of 40-60%.

The company declined to comment on the issue. 

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