By Foo Yun Chee and Bart H. Meijer
BRUSSELS, September 20 (Reuters) – The European Union’s second Supreme Court on Wednesday backed a European competition regulator’s decision against a 700 million euro Belgian tax plan for 55 multinationals.
The Luxembourg-based General Court had annulled Margrethe Vestager’s decision in 2019 after Belgium and about 30 of the companies challenged it.
Beneficiaries of the 2005 Belgian scheme included American manufacturer Magnetrol and oil company BP B.P.Lchemical manufacturer BASF BASFn.DEWabco, Cellio, Atlas Copco ATCOa.ST and Belgacom, now Proximus PROX.BR .
However, the EU Court of Justice, Europe’s highest court, sided with the European competition enforcer in 2021 and referred the case back to the lower tribunal.
“The tax exemptions granted by Belgium to companies belonging to multinational groups constitute an unlawful aid scheme,” the General Court said on Wednesday, agreeing with the Commission that the scheme was selective because it favored certain companies.
A spokesperson for the Belgian Ministry of Finance said the ministry was studying the verdict.
“The contested scheme was selective because it was not open to companies that had decided not to make investments, centralize activities or create employment in Belgium. Moreover, the contested scheme was also selective because it was not open to companies that were part of a small group,” the Court said.
Belgium can still appeal to the Court of Justice of the EU.
The case concerns T-131/16 RENV | Belgium v Commission.
($1 = 0.9354 euros)
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee in Brussels and Bart Meijer in Amsterdam; editing by Tomasz Janowski)
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