BRUSSELS, May 5, 2015:
The EU may probe sweetheart tax deals that US fast food icon McDonald’s allegedly agreed with Luxembourg, the bloc’s competition chief said today, adding to a growing list of suspects.
“We are looking if we should open a case on McDonald’s” based on information supplied by unions, EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.
“It is to see if we have to open a case,” said Vestager, who in recent weeks has shown no fear in launching separate anti-trust probes against US Internet giant Google and Russia’s Gazprom.
She told a special European Parliament committee, set up in February to investigate special “tax rulings” across the EU, that it was unlikely current cases would be the last.
The EU is already investigating tax deals between US tech giant Apple and Ireland, coffee-shop chain Starbucks in The Netherlands, plus Amazon and Italian automaker Fiat in Luxembourg.
The Luxembourg connection revealed by last year’s 2014 Luxleaks scandal has proved embarrassing for commission head Jean-Claude Juncker who was prime minister of the tiny duchy when many of the tax agreements were reached.
In February, Vestager announced a probe into Belgium’s tax arrangements with multinationals as a whole.
Brussels believes some tax breaks offered to big companies breach the bloc’s rules on state aid, amounting to an unfair subsidy which puts other companies at a disadvantage.
Three international labour groups charged in February that burger giant McDonald’s had channelled sales of some €3.7 billion (RM14.86 billion) from its European restaurants into its Luxembourg holding company in the period 2009-13.
If these revenues had been taxed in their country of origin, McDonald’s would have had to pay €1.05 billion in tax, instead of the €16 million levied in Luxembourg, they said, calling on the European Commission and the European Parliament to launch a probe.
McDonald’s rejected the union charges outright, saying it complied fully with existing tax law and paid its dues.