EU: State aid decisions, taxation of ports in Netherlands, Belgium, France

EU: Taxation of ports in Netherlands, Belgium, France

The European Commission today issued a release announcing that it is requiring the Netherlands to repeal an exemption from corporate tax for six seaports, to align the tax regime with EU state aid rules. The EC also proposed in two separate decisions that Belgium and France align their taxation of ports with state aid rules.

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According to the EC release, the commercial operation of port infrastructure constitutes an economic activity, and the EC concluded that public companies when carrying out economic activities are subject to paying corporate tax (as are private companies). 

The EC determined that the Dutch provisions exempting certain public companies, including port operators, from corporate tax at six Dutch seaports may give those companies an undue advantage over their competitors. The Netherlands now has two months to take the necessary steps to remove the exemption so that beginning 1 January 2017, the six ports will be subject to the same corporate taxation rules.

Belgium and France

In Belgium, a number of sea and inland waterway ports are exempt from the general corporate income tax regime. The Belgian ports are subject to a different tax regime, with a different base and tax rates, resulting in an overall lower level of taxation for Belgian ports as compared to other companies active in Belgium.

The EC noted that most French ports are fully exempt from corporate income tax. The EC’s preliminary finding is that both Belgium and France must revise their laws so that public or private ports pay corporate tax on their economic activities in the same way as other companies in Belgium and France. Each country now has two months to react.

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