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Ikea's Belgian operations face probe on report of dodged taxes

[BRUSSELS] Ikea's Belgian operations face a probe by the country's tax authorities after a report by the European Union's Green party last month said the furniture retailer avoided paying at least 1 billion euros (S$1.53 billion) in taxes in the EU over the past six years.

Belgium's Green party said on Wednesday on its website that Belgian Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt told them that the report caught the local authorities' attention and led to the opening of a probe into Ikea Belgium.

"The opening of this investigation is a step in the right direction," Belgian Green lawmaker Georges Gilkinet said in a statement on his party's website on March 16.

"It's essential that the national fiscal authorities are able to dive into the accounts of the units of multinationals, and if necessary, continue with tax adjustments."

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Ikea Belgium and the Belgian Finance Ministry didn't immediately respond to e-mailed messages seeking comment.

Multinationals are in the firing line as the European Commission takes aim at so-called tax rulings it says may be unfair subsidies. Representatives of Inter Ikea Group faced questions by EU lawmakers Tuesday alongside Apple Inc, Google and McDonald's Corp, all insisting that their companies' tax affairs are in line with international rules.

Apple's tax affairs in Ireland and Amazon.com Inc's arrangements in Luxembourg are slated to be next in line after EU regulators ordered the Netherlands and Luxembourg to recover as much as 30 million euros each from Starbucks Corp. and a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV unit.

The EU ruled in January that Belgium's tax arrangement with about 35 companies including Anheuser-Busch InBev SA was illegal.

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