When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Europe's Best-Kept Secret: A Tax Haven For Rock Stars And Starbucks To Stash Earnings

Bono, Bowie, and the Rolling Stones, not to mention Apple, Google and Microsoft keep an address in the Netherlands, which doesn't tax profits by foreigners. What do locals say?

A mailbox in northern Holland
A mailbox in northern Holland
Rob Savelberg

Many European billionaires choose tiny South Pacific islands to hide their money from the taxman. But there are easier ways: just bring it to the Netherlands, where there are hardly any taxes to be paid on profits.

This reality is now the subject of an open conversation in the Netherlands because in times of recession, with the euro crisis and tight budgets, many Dutch citizens dislike the image of their country as a tax haven for the super-rich and mega-corporations.

Holding companies for corporations like Apple, Microsoft, Google, Ikea, Starbucks and others bring 8 trillion euros to the Netherlands every year to save on taxes – legally – via “mailbox” companies created there. A single office building in Amsterdam, for instance, is the registered mailbox for more than 2,670 companies.

Corporate tax is 20% to 25% in Holland, but is only levied on profit, not intellectual property.

"Jan Modaal" (Dutch for “Average Joe”) on the other hand has to cough up quite a bit; income taxes in the Netherlands are among the highest in Europe, and can amount to over 50%.

Because the Dutch do not tax royalties, the Netherlands is also appealing for musicians like David Bowie and the Rolling Stones who have amassed considerable wealth over the years from sales of records, CDs, and concert tickets. Also registered in the Netherlands is Irish rock band U2 – and lead singer Bono, thus ensuring that however vocal he may be about the poor in Africa he doesn’t have to fork over too much to the state.

Holding companies and multinationals also have the option of making special deals with Dutch tax authorities who are bound by an oath of secrecy. The country’s right-liberal government continues to support the whole system, which brings in over a billion euros a year.

Only The Dutch Pay Taxes

During the 2009 financial crisis, the U.S. put the Netherlands on a tax haven black list but the Dutch were able to persuade President Barack Obama to take the country off the list.

Many Dutch citizens apparently think that was a mistake, as the success of the Dutch book The Tax Haven – Why No One Here Pays Tax, Except You illustrates. In the book, author Joost van Kleef enumerates all the corporate money-saving tricks. "There are a lot of tax loopholes in our country," he writes. "Some legal entities for example don’t have to pay a tax on dividends. And the subsidiaries of huge multinationals registered here pay no or very little tax."

Van Kleef also points out that not only do English pop stars and American Internet giants do business here, but also billionaires from the former Eastern Bloc and top-earning soccer players.

Many rich Greeks also have a presence in the country, like European Goldfields, the Abela hotel chain, Hellenic Land Holdings and Crete Hellas Holdings. Lamda Development, which belongs to the richest man in Greece, Spiros Latsis, is also registered in the Netherlands – even as northern European taxpayers are backing Greece with billions so the country doesn’t go bankrupt.

Ironically, tax accountancy firm Deloitte has published a study according to which the Netherlands in not a tax haven. In the report, Peter Kavelaars, a Deloitte partner and professor of fiscal economy in Holland, makes the point that a reason why many large corporations register in the Netherlands is that withholding tax is only 15%.

But van Kleef doesn’t buy this. “You will find nearly every tax expert who advises the government, parliament, government ministers, somewhere on the payroll of either Deloitte or Ernst & Young – companies earning big time from the Dutch tax evasion paradise," he says.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Why Poland's Break With Ukraine Weakens All Enemies Of Russia — Starting With Poland

Poland’s decision to stop sending weapons to Ukraine is being driven by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party's short-term electoral calculus. Yet the long-term effects on the world stage could deeply undermine the united NATO front against Russia, and the entire Western coalition.

Photo of ​Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Lutsk, Ukraine, on July 9

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Lutsk, Ukraine, on July 9

Bartosz T. Wieliński


WARSAW — Poland has now moved from being the country that was most loudly demanding that arms be sent to Ukraine, to a country that has suddenly announced it was withholding military aid. Even if Poland's actions won't match Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s words, the government has damaged the standing of our country in the region, and in NATO.

“We are no longer providing arms to Ukraine, because we are now arming Poland,” the prime minister declared on Polsat news on Wednesday evening. He didn’t specify which type of arms he was referring to, but his statement was quickly spread on social media by leading figures of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

When news that Poland would be withholding arms to Ukraine made their way to the headlines of the most important international media outlets, no politician from PiS stepped in to refute the prime minister’s statement. Which means that Morawiecki said exactly what he meant to say.

The era of tight Polish-Ukrainian collaboration, militarily and politically, has thus come to an end.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest