UPDATE 1-Dutch minister: I did not have contact with Uber on tax plan

(Updates with quote from lawmaker)

By Toby Sterling

AMSTERDAM, Sept 2 (Reuters) – The top Dutch tax politician has denied meeting representatives of Uber Technologies , in answer to questions from parliament about why the company has been allowed to claim a provisional $6.1 billion tax write-off in the Netherlands.

The remarks by State Secretary of Finance Menno Snel come as the Dutch government has embarked on a campaign to reform its reputation as an enabler of tax avoidance by multinationals.

“We do not systematically track contacts between (tax) officials and … companies, but in general it is true that such contacts take place,” Snel said in a letter to parliament published on Friday.

“For myself, I can say that I have not had contact with an Uber representative.”

In an Aug. 9 SEC filing, Uber said it had moved a Bermuda subsidiary that owns intellectual property to the Netherlands, “primarily to align its structure to its evolving operations.”

San Francisco-based Uber headquarters its international operations in Amsterdam, where it now has more than 1,000 employees.

The company said the intellectual property move led to an increase of $6.1 billion in “foreign tax assets” – that is, investment costs that can be deducted from eventual profits. On Aug. 8, Uber reported a core operating loss of $656 million.

Uber disclosed in June that its 2013-2014 tax filings are being audited by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, and its taxes for 2010-2019 remain unresolved in multiple jurisdictions including the Netherlands.

Snel said in answer to questions from lawmaker Pieter Omtzigt that “in general” intangible assets could be amortized in the Netherlands, offsetting profits earned there.

But he declined to comment on any specific case.

Omtzigt said on Monday there had been a rush of companies in the first half of 2019 seeking advance approval from Dutch tax authorities for tax plans before a set of loopholes closed on July 1.

“It definitely appears that the tax service has been very helpful to companies,” he said. “If only they would be so helpful to low-income individuals, who have great difficulty in even finding somebody to communicate with.”

Oxfam tax expert Francis Weyzig said Snel’s comments were remarkable, as they suggest that not only can companies seek formal advice from the government in the form of “advance tax rulings”, but they can also seek informal advice, as Uber appears to have done.

“It would surprise me if Uber were the only one doing this,” Weyzig said.

The finance ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.

An Uber spokeswoman said on Monday the company is “committed to openness and transparency with tax authorities around the world.”

Uber is “faithful to both the letter and intent of the laws in the many jurisdictions where we operate,” she said. (Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Louise Heavens and Mark Potter)

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