Belgium is offering multinationals the opportunity to negotiate the profit rates on which they are being taxed. In practise, these so-called "excess profit rulings" allow international players to be exempted from paying taxes on a major part of their profits.
Francis Adyns, spokesman for the federal Finance Department 'FOD Financiën' admits that the "rulings commission made 60 of those deals since 2005". It's the first time a specific number is being mentioned, but the content remains a secret. The rulings commission refuses to give any comment about the companies involved and how much tax they were allowed to evade, citing professional confidentiality.
It is not easy to put a figure on these "fiscal presents" as they are called. The government issued a video to promote the system though, giving the example of exempting profits from taxes for 60 per cent. Sources within the Finance Department are even talking of 90 per cent. One of the companies known to enjoy the tax benefits is Leuven-based AB InBev.
The rulings are not illegal. However, if a company is being granted a tax benefit, it should pay these taxes elsewhere. Belgium is said not to pass on enough information to other governments to allow this. Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt (N-VA) has promised that this will change.