May 29, 2019
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Oil and gas giant Royal Dutch Shell PLC will disclose how much tax it pays in every country in which it operates, an executive told a Dutch parliamentary panel on Wednesday, in a report to be published later this year.
Shell’s vice president for taxation Alan McLean made the promise at a hearing on taxation of multinationals called by parliament after reports emerged last year that Shell does not pay any corporate tax in the Netherlands, despite being headquartered in The Hague.
Ahead of Wednesday’s panel, Shell disclosed that it does not pay Dutch corporate taxes apart from at its NAM gas subsidiary, a joint venture with Exxon.
Worldwide, Shell reported it paid $10 billion in corporate tax in 2018 and that it had an effective tax rate of 33 percent.
However, in the relatively small Dutch market it was able to use deductions on loss-making operations elsewhere to reduce its corporate tax bill to zero.
“When there’s a loss there’s no profit tax to be paid, so the arithmetic is simple,” Alan McLean told skeptical lawmakers.
“I understand that for many people… being seen to make profits here in the Netherlands and not having any profit to pay tax on can be odd.”
Among other Dutch multinationals, healthcare company Philips confirmed at Wednesday’s hearing that it did not pay any Dutch taxes in 2018, though it said it expects to pay around 100 million euros a year starting in 2021.
Paint maker Akzo Nobel, which also attended the hearing, did not disclose what portion of the 118 million euros in tax payments it made in 2018 went to the Netherlands.
Unilever, which did not attend the hearing, routinely discloses its per-country taxation. It paid 2.29 billion euros in corporate tax in 2018, including 30 million euros in the Netherlands.
Asked by a lawmaker whether he thought it was moral that Shell paid no Dutch corporate tax, McLean said morality was “a very difficult word”.
“We understand at Shell that we have to have the support of the communities in which we operate,” he said.
“I think we also understand at Shell that some of the support that we’ve had from the broader Dutch community has diminished over time, and we’re working hard to rebuild that.”
He said the company adheres to the letter of tax rules in all jurisdictions.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Jan Harvey)