"In some instances, the leaked records indicate, companies have enjoyed effective tax rates of less than 1 percent."
|Juncker in 2011|
6/29/16, "LuxLeaks scandal: Luxembourg tax whistleblowers convicted," BBC
"Two whistleblowers have been found guilty in the so-called "Luxleaks" tax scandal and given suspended sentences, while a journalist has been acquitted.
Prosecutors had sought 18-month jail terms for the two men. Edouard Perrin, a journalist who reported on the leaks, was acquitted of all charges.
Deltour, 31, and Halet, 40, also received suspended fines of €1,500 (£1,250; $1,650) and €1,000 respectively.
They have 40 days to appeal against the verdict. Deltour told Agence France-Presse that he intended to do so.
The prosecution accused Deltour and Halet of theft and said they violated a confidentiality agreement in their employment contract with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
The two men faced a maximum sentence of 10 years.
The 30,000 pages of documents leaked by the whistleblowers exposed favourable tax arrangements offered by Luxembourg to some of the world's biggest companies - including Apple, Ikea, and Pepsi - while Jean-Claude Juncker, now head of the European Commission, was prime minister....
The same data received wider coverage after an international investigation of the data organised by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
But despite the revelations prompting parliamentary debates, select committee hearings, and an EU probe into anti-competitive tax deals, it is the two former employees of PWC and Edouard Perrin who ended up in the dock.
Although they have been given suspended sentences, the guilty verdicts for the two former PWC employees are likely to increase calls for more robust protections for whistleblowers....
The leak was the biggest expose of corporate tax deals until last month's publication of the Panama Papers, which revealed links between a number of international leaders and offshore shell companies that can be used to hide or launder wealth."
Juncker in 2011, above image caption: "Wrong man for the job': Jean-Claude Juncker tucks into his food - and wine - at a European finance ministers' meeting in 2011. A senior diplomatic source claims Mr Juncker 'reportedly has cognac for breakfast'," Reuters via Daily Mail
May 2016 article
5/15/16, "LuxLeaks trial: Prosecutor demands jail for 'whistleblowers'," BBC
"The files showed how Luxembourg granted lucrative tax breaks that saved firms including Apple, Ikea and Pepsi billions of dollars in taxes, at a time when Jean-Claude Juncker, now head of the European Commission, was prime minister....
The documents were originally used for a 2012 report on French public television in collaboration with the BBC's Panorama. They gained international interest in 2014 with the huge "LuxLeaks" dump of all 30,000 pages into the public domain.
LuxLeaks was the biggest expose of corporate tax deals until last month's publication of the Panama Papers, which revealed links between a number of international leaders and offshore shell companies that can be used to hide or launder wealth."
Nov. 2014 report:
"In some instances, the leaked records indicate, companies have enjoyed effective tax rates of less than 1 percent....Disclosure of the leaked documents comes at a sensitive time for Luxembourg, a nation with a population of less than 550,000. Amid the EU probe of Luxembourg’s tax deals, former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker is in his first week in office as president of the European Commission, one of the most powerful positions in the EU....The European Union and Luxembourg have been fighting for months over Luxembourg’s reluctance to turn over information about its tax rulings to the EU, which is investigating whether the country’s tax deals with Amazon and Fiat Finance violate European law. Luxembourg officials have supplied some information to the EU but have refused, EU officials say, to provide a larger set of documents relating to its tax rulings."...
11/5/2014, "Leaked Documents Expose Global Companies’ Secret Tax Deals in Luxembourg," Int. Consortium of Investigative Journalism, icij.org, by Leslie Wayne, Kelly Carr, Marina Walker Guevara, Mar Cabra and Michael Hudson
""The landlocked European duchy has been called a “magical fairyland” for brand-name corporations seeking to drastically reduce tax bills.
Pepsi, IKEA, FedEx and 340 other international companies have secured secret deals from Luxembourg, allowing many of them to slash their global tax bills while maintaining little presence in the tiny European duchy, leaked documents show.
These companies appear to have channeled hundreds of billions of dollars through Luxembourg and saved billions of dollars in taxes, according to a review of nearly 28,000 pages of confidential documents conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and a team of more than 80 journalists from 26 countries.
Big companies can book big tax savings by creating complicated accounting and legal structures that move profits to low-tax Luxembourg from higher-tax countries where they’re headquartered or do lots of business. In some instances, the leaked records indicate, companies have enjoyed effective tax rates of less than 1 percent on the profits they’ve shuffled into Luxembourg.
The leaked documents reviewed by ICIJ journalists include hundreds of private tax rulings – sometimes known as “comfort letters” – that Luxembourg provides to corporations seeking favorable tax treatment.
The European Union and Luxembourg have been fighting for months over Luxembourg’s reluctance to turn over information about its tax rulings to the EU, which is investigating whether the country’s tax deals with Amazon and Fiat Finance violate European law. Luxembourg officials have supplied some information to the EU but have refused, EU officials say, to provide a larger set of documents relating to its tax rulings.
Today ICIJ and its media partners are releasing a large cache of Luxembourg tax rulings – 548 comfort letters issued from 2002 to 2010 – and reporting on their contents in stories that will be published or broadcast in dozens of countries. It’s unclear whether any of these documents are among those still being sought by EU investigators, but they are the kinds of documents that go to the heart of the EU’s investigation into Luxembourg’s tax rulings.
The leaked documents reviewed by ICIJ involve deals negotiated by PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the world’s largest accounting firms, on behalf of hundreds of corporate clients. To qualify the companies for tax relief, the records show, PwC tax advisers helped come up with financial strategies that feature loans among sister companies and other moves designed to shift profits from one part of a corporation to another to reduce or eliminate taxable income.
The records show, for example, that Memphis-based FedEx Corp. set up two Luxembourg affiliates to shuffle earnings from its Mexican, French and Brazilian operations to FedEx affiliates in Hong Kong. Profits moved from Mexico to Luxembourg largely as tax-free dividends. Luxembourg agreed to tax only one quarter of 1 percent of FedEx’s non-dividend income flowing through this arrangement – leaving the remaining 99.75 percent tax-free.
“A Luxembourg structure is a way of stripping income from whatever country it comes from,’’ said Stephen E. Shay, a professor of international taxation at Harvard Law School and a former tax official in the U.S. Treasury Department. The Grand Duchy, he said, “combines enormous flexibility to set up tax reduction schemes, along with binding tax rulings that are unique. It’s like a magical fairyland.”
FedEx declined comment on the specifics of its Luxembourg tax arrangements. Other companies seeking tax deals from Luxembourg come from private equity, real estate, banking, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and other industries, the leaked files show. They include Accenture, Abbott Laboratories, American International Group (AIG), Amazon, Blackstone, Deutsche Bank, the Coach handbag empire, H.J. Heinz, JP Morgan Chase, Burberry, Procter & Gamble, the Carlyle Group and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.
For their part, Luxembourg’s officials and defenders say the landlocked nation’s system of private tax agreements is above reproach.
“No way are these sweetheart deals,” Nicolas Mackel, chief executive of Luxembourg for Finance, a quasi-governmental agency, said in an interview with ICIJ.
“The Luxembourg system of taxation is competitive – there is nothing unfair or unethical about it,” Mackel said. “If companies manage to reduce their tax bills to a very low rate, that’s a problem not of one tax system but of the interaction of many tax systems.”
Less than 1%
Disclosure of the leaked documents comes at a sensitive time for Luxembourg, a nation with a population of less than 550,000. Amid the EU probe of Luxembourg’s tax deals, former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker is in his first week in office as president of the European Commission, one of the most powerful positions in the EU.
Juncker, Luxembourg’s top leader when many of the jurisdiction’s tax breaks were crafted, has promised to crack down on tax dodging in his new post, but he has also said he believes his own country’s tax regime is in “full accordance” with European law. Under Luxembourg’s system, tax advisers from PwC and other firms can present proposals for corporate structures and transactions designed to create tax savings and then get written assurance that their plan will be viewed favorably by the duchy’s Ministry of Finance.
“It’s like taking your tax plan to the government and getting it blessed ahead of time,” said Richard D. Pomp, a tax law professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law. “And most are blessed. Luxembourg has a very user-friendly tax department.”
The private deals are legal in Luxembourg but may be subject to legal challenge outside the country if tax officials in other nations view them as improper.
Luxembourg’s Ministry of Finance said in a statement that “advance tax decisions” are “well established in many EU member states, such as Germany, France, the Netherlands, the U.K. and Luxembourg” and that they don’t conflict with European law as long as “all taxpayers in a similar situation are treated equally.”
PwC said ICIJ’s reporting is based on “outdated” and “stolen” information, “the theft of which is in the hands of the relevant authorities.” It said its tax advice and assistance are “given in accordance with applicable local, European and international tax laws and agreements and is guided by a PwC Global Tax Code of Conduct.”
In its statement PwC said media do not have “a complete understanding of the structures involved.” While the company can’t comment on specific client matters, it rejects “any suggestion that there is anything improper about the firm’s work.”
ICIJ and its media partners used corporate balance sheets, regulatory filings and court records to put the leaked tax rulings in context. News organizations that have worked together on the six-month investigation include
Süddeutsche Zeitung and
NDR/WDR in Germany, the
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation,
Japan’s Asahi Shimbun,
Brazil’s Folha de S. Paulo and others.
U.S. and U.K. companies appeared more frequently in the leaked files than companies from any other country, followed by firms from Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland. Most of the rulings in the stash of documents were approved between 2008 and 2010. Some of them were first reported on in 2012 by Edouard Perrin for France 2 public television and by the BBC, but most of the PwC documents have never before been analyzed by reporters.
The files do not include tax deals sought from Luxembourg authorities through other accounting firms. And many of the documents do not include explicit figures for how much money the companies expected to shift through Luxembourg.
Experts who’ve reviewed the files for ICIJ say the documents do make it clear, though, that the companies and their advisors at PwC engaged in aggressive tax-reduction strategies, using Luxembourg
in combination with other tax havens such as
Among deals documents show:
"Belgium’s richest family, the billionaire de Spoelberch dynasty, obtained a private tax ruling from Luxembourg in 2008. The de Spoelberch clan, part of the country’s old nobility and close to the royal family, holds a big stake in ABInbev, the world’s biggest brewer whose labels include Budweiser, Stella Artois, Corona and Beck’s. The records indicate the de Spoelberch’s routed €2 billion through Ireland and then Luxembourg, reducing taxes with each step. The only sign of Luxembourg companies controlled by the family appears to be
a small letter box at an address that lists nearly
190 other companies
Last month, in the Gilded Age splendor of New York’s private Metropolitan Club, Pierre Gramegna, Luxembourg’s minister of finance, tried to woo the Wall Street crowd with some premier cru wine and a little levity. He told assembled financiers that he wanted to dispel the myth that his tiny country is nothing more than a tax haven: “Luxembourg is not an offshore place. I say it loud and clear.”
What he got back was hearty round of laughter.
In the wake of the EU’s probe of its tax practices, Luxembourg officials continue to bristle at their nation’s tax haven label. The country, a founding member of the EU, boasts of being a multi-lingual nation in the heart of Europe with a business-friendly and stable government. Once primarily a steel-maker and manufacturer, Luxembourg has transitioned into a financial center rivaling London, New York or Hong Kong. With $3.7 trillion in assets under management by banks and other institutions, Luxembourg is second only to the U.S. as a global investment center.
More than 170 of the Fortune 500 companies have a Luxembourg branch, according to Citizens for Tax Justice, a nonprofit research and advocacy group. A total of $95 billion in profits from American corporations’ overseas operations flowed through Luxembourg in 2012, the most current statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis show. On those profits, corporations paid $1.04 billion in taxes to Luxembourg- just 1.1 percent.
Other tax havens, Ireland for example, openly advertise rock-bottom corporate tax rates of 12.5 percent. Luxembourg instead maintains a statutory tax rate of 29 percent, but the leaked files show that the duchy has routinely approved tax rulings that whittle down what counts as taxable income to practically nothing.
This can drop Luxembourg’s effective tax rate deep into single digits."...