Banks in the Netherlands still not doing enough to fight tax avoidance
The majority of Dutch banks are still not adequately tackling tax avoidance by business customers. Five of the eight studied by the Fair Bank Guide still score poorly on tax avoidance, including the major banks ABN Amro, ING and Rabobank. The authors of the report issued the conclusion on Thursday on the basis of new research into banking policy.
For example, the major banks do not ask the companies they finance to be open about their tax payments and agreements with tax authorities. In addition, they do not expect these companies to have a system in place to take immediate action if employees or suppliers are believed to be guilty of tax avoidance, or even tax evasion. Only Van Lanschot Kempen and de Volksbank improved their policies in this area.
In addition to tackling tax avoidance, ABN Amro and ING also scored poorly on other researched topics. For example, ING remains at the bottom of the list with five unsatisfactory marks on taxes, animal welfare, weapons financing, gender equality and climate change. At ABN Amro, the scores have fallen across the board, with the exception of gender equality.
De Volksbank and Triodos have the best sustainability policies. Rabobank is the only major bank to show no decline in policy rating, but a slight improvement. The bank performs remarkably well on the theme of nature in particular, the researchers said.
ABN Amro, NIBC and Van Lanschot Kempen show the greatest improvements in the field of gender equality. Nevertheless, the scores on this subject remain too low, according to the Fair Bank Guide. The research was commissioned by Amnesty International, environmental activist organization Milieudefensie and Oxfam Novib, among others.
In a response, ING stated that it does not agree with the Fair Bank Guide’s scoring, and refers to a much better score it received in a report on transparent tax policy by VBDO, an association for sustainable investors. In addition, the bank says it does not provide tax advice and does not facilitate “tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance by customers.” Clients must also be transparent about their tax ethics.
ABN Amro says it is committed to a responsible tax policy. The bank did not participate in the Fair Bank Guide because it did not support the methodology used for that study. “Although we do not agree with all the findings, this publication is a clear signal for us. It keeps us sharp, gives us insight into the views of important social stakeholders and in any case shows us where we still have challenges.”
Reporting by ANP