The oil and gas giant announced this morning that it wants to move its headquarters from The Hague to London. Politics The Hague was taken by surprise by the announced departure of Shell from the Netherlands. Blok was only notified last night.
At the top of the outgoing cabinet, there are discussions about the possibilities of retaining Shell’s head office for the Netherlands. Abolition of the dividend tax would be a far-reaching measure that can only be taken by the next cabinet, sources report.
The abolition of the dividend tax was also a hot political issue a few years ago. The VVD in particular wanted to abolish the tax, in favor of businesses and shareholders. There was great resistance to this.
Removing the tax would cost the state about 1.9 billion euros per year, while hardly anyone is really bothered by the tax. This is because almost all investors can settle the tax paid through their tax return.
Unilever and Shell
But for two large companies, the dividend tax was a major thorn in the side: Unilever and Shell. Both multinationals have one leg in the Netherlands and one in the UK, where there is no dividend tax.
They had to go to great lengths to ensure that their UK shareholders were not subject to dividend withholding tax, at the cost of a great deal of flexibility in corporate structure. The abolition of the tax would have been primarily intended to persuade these two companies to stay in the Netherlands.
Did not work
So that didn’t work. Unilever, which had headquarters in Rotterdam and London, closed its headquarters in Rotterdam last year. In 2018, the company – buoyed by the prospect of abolishing the dividend tax – only wanted to establish itself in the Netherlands, but shareholders voted down that proposal. That was the death knell for the plan to abolish the dividend tax and the plan fell through.
Now that Shell is using the dividend tax to move its head office, Blok and Vijlbrief have asked various opposition parties whether abolishing the dividend tax could be an option. In the current – and future – coalition, that is also not yet a race. The ChristenUnie previously called it ‘a melon to swallow’.
When the British Shell and the Dutch Royal Oil continued as a company in 2005, a very complicated construction was set up to be able to establish the head office in the Netherlands, but at the same time to spare British shareholders from the dividend tax.
The company writes that it has always thought that this construction was temporary, because the Dutch government had hinted that the dividend tax would eventually be abolished. Now that that didn’t happen, Shell chose eggs for its money.