More Luxembourg Luxleaks reactions: accusations of hypocrisy, finger-pointing at the Netherlands

The headline of the Luxembourg Tageblatt over the weekend was “The Hypocrisy Behind Luxleaks”.

The leading article argues that “the level of taxation of a state cannot simply be called into question because it has lower taxes than other states”.

“Luxembourg, as a sovereign state, has the right to set its tax policy as its interests demand, within the frameworks of international and European agreements.”

[Just 2 quick points: As repeatedly noted by the Tax Justice Network, tax competition is a race to the bottom. Also, what Luxleaks revealed was that Luxembourg was not setting tax policy only for itself; it was in practice setting the effective tax rates paid by multinationals elsewhere.

Or as the Financial Times comments “…the main losers from tax avoidance are taxpayers from other countries.”]

The Tageblatt article then calls for “no prejudices” in advance of ongoing EU tax investigations which include the Netherlands and Ireland. [in other words: “Jean-Claude, help us!”]

After quickly trying to play the “we’re a small country just trying to give its citizens a decent life” card, it moves to

“One wishes that the investigative journalists who are hitting “Luxembourg Luke”  were seriously interested in the crimes of state, which day after day are committed by the leading powers for geostrategic and economic reasons. But for this they lack the courage, they lack the informants.”

[Just one of the many newspapers which worked on Luxleaks, the Guardian, has previously worked with Wikileaks, Snowden and Offshore Leaks.]

The closing paragraph asks “speaking of which: who gave them the documents, who delivered these materials to them for free? Who benefits from Luxleaks?”

[If Luxleaks helps along much-needed international tax reforms, taxpayers in other countries will certainly benefit.]

The full Tageblatt article (in German) is here.

– A second Tageblatt leading article starts by taking a conciliatory approach, with the headline “The Wind has Turned”:

“It has been known for several years: Luxembourg is on the way to transparency and openness. One doesn’t want to be known as a tax haven any longer.”

“Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna is selling the new path as a chance for the country and the financial sector…he could, however, also say that there is no alternative.”

The tone then shifts to say that “the switch to a completely new business model for Luxembourg will take many years yet”

before revealing which other country Luxembourg is really worried about:

“Luxembourg has good cards in the new world – at least much better cards than Switzerland…Bank secrecy was just one factor among many. The varied financial products and its infrastructure will make sure that the country remains attractive. And Switzerland is not even a member of the European Union.”

– Lastly, a third Tageblatt article which has the headline quote “It’s like in Luxembourg” (!) says “The Netherlands are probably the most popular legal tax haven in the world”. It draws on a Der Spiegel article published yesterday, which reports there are at least 12.000 “postbox companies” in the Netherlands.

(Tageblatt and Spiegel articles in German; translation with some help from google.)


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