Belgian tax rules under scrutiny as European Union widens crackdown

The European Union has launched a probe into tax rules in Belgium allowing multinational companies to slash their bills, following similar investigations in Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

The EU's top competition policy official, Margrethe Vestager, said Tuesday that "if our concerns are confirmed, this generalized scheme would be a serious distortion of competition unduly benefitting a selected number of multinationals."

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The European Commission believes that a Belgian tax provision allows some companies to substantially reduce their liabilities on the basis of so-called "excess profit" rulings, which apply only to multinationals.

The EU is concerned that several member countries appear to be allowing multinationals to take advantage of their tax systems.

Last year the Commission launched probes concerning Apple in Ireland, Starbucks in the Netherlands and Amazon in Luxemburg.