Karel De Gucht, the European commissioner for trade, has admitted that he is in dispute with the Belgian tax authorities about whether he should have paid tax on profits made from share dealing in 2005.
In an interview with Belgium’s De Tijd newspaper on Tuesday (6 March), the commissioner (pictured) said that he had done nothing wrong under Belgian law and said his lawyer would answer all questions posed by tax inspectors.
The commissioner said that at the time he had made no secret of his decision to sell shares in a metals coatings company, Vista NV, to a British firm. De Gucht’s declaration of interests in August 2011, published by the European Commission, states that he sat on the company’s board of directors from 19 October 2001 to July 2004.
The tax authorities are looking into whether De Gucht received the shares in return for his work as a director, which might mean that any derived profits should be taxed.
His lawyer told De Standaard newspaper that he had not received the shares through any favourable discount but as part of a rights issue.
The commissioner told De Tijd: “The tax authority will have to conclude that there is nothing wrong.”
The questions being posed by the authorities are part of a wider investigation into De Gucht’s bank records. Tax inspectors have already looked into whether the purchase of a house in Italy by him and his wife complied with tax rules.
The commissioner launched a court case against the authorities claiming that the investigation is a violation of his privacy and disputing whether the tax authorities should have access to his and his wife’s bank records.
De Gucht is challenging the tax authority’s interpretation of a Belgian law that transposes a European Union law on the taxation of cross-border savings, which obliged Belgium to change its rules on banking secrecy.
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