ANPThe head office of Rabobank in Utrecht
NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 17:54
From ‘bad’ to ‘a very short-sighted idea’. Although the House of Representatives is weakening the plan for an additional bank tax, Dutch banks remain furious about the plan. But the banks do not yet dare to threaten to leave the Netherlands, as the VVD predicted today.
Whether or not coincidentally, the two major banks ING and Rabobank had planned a round table discussion with journalists at the office of the interest group Dutch Banking Association (NVB) when the bank tax was discussed again in The Hague. The House of Representatives initially wanted to provide the treasury with an additional 350 million euros annually through this extra tax. After an adjustment to the plan, the amount to be raised with the extra tax is now 150 million euros.
The banks have nothing good to say about that. “You make more profit and the government then makes you pay more taxes. Which company does this happen to?” grumbled Bas Brouwers, financial director of Rabobank. ING CEO Steven van Rijswijk thought it was disruptive to competition and bad for market forces. “Passing a hole in the budget onto banks is a bad idea.”
The bank tax was introduced in 2012 after the credit crisis. Then banks received financial support from the government to stay afloat. This tax on debts outstanding to banks is intended as an insurance premium for future crises.
It is a new development that the House of Representatives will use this tax to ‘raise money’ that is not used to support banks in trouble. For 2024, the revenue is estimated at 470 million euros. The tax increase of 150 million euros must take effect in 2025.
VVD member Eelco Heijnen said today in the House of Representatives that banks have already threatened to leave the Netherlands. For ING, Van Rijswijk called a move of the head office abroad “complicated” and “major”. But he didn’t really rule it out. “ING would like to stay in the Netherlands. But we also want the business climate in the Netherlands to be good.” Brouwers believes that the chance of a departure for Rabobank is “not great”. “We are a cooperative.”
Brouwers did warn against a Dutch bank leaving, for example in the event of a merger with or takeover by a foreign bank. “It is not that difficult to calculate in which country you should have your head office,” says Van Rijswijk.
For years, the smaller Volksbank and ABN Amro have been mentioned in the financial sector as targets when large European banks go on the acquisition trail. For example, last year the French BNP Paribas inquired about a purchase of ABN Amro.
Initiator Jesse Klaver of GroenLinks received support for the extra bank tax from a parliamentary majority during the General Deliberations out of dissatisfaction with the high profits that banks are making this year due to rapidly rising interest rates. According to Rabobank’s Brouwers, this profit is relative. “Banks dangle with their profits at the bottom of the list of companies listed on the stock exchange, the AEX.”
NVB chairman Medy van der Laan called the current profits normal. “Before the interest rate at the European Central Bank became negative, this was not special at all. If you hold your own in bad times, you will not skim off when things go well again.” Nevertheless, the former state secretary of D66 was unable to stop support for the bank tax within her own party.
Van Rijswijk states that a healthy profit is also necessary to raise money on the capital markets at lower interest rates, for example to provide attractive mortgages.
At the same time, Brouwers acknowledged that his story is difficult to explain to customers, for example, who see their savings interest rate rise only slowly and the mortgage interest rate rise more quickly. In the meantime, those customers see high profit distributions going to shareholders. “A shareholder is a pension fund or an insurer, not a bogeyman,” Brouwers responded. “It’s not one against the other,” Van Rijswijk said. “We balance between employees, customers and shareholders. Everyone has different requirements.”
It remains to be seen whether the additional bank tax will be introduced. After heavy criticism from banks, the business community and the cabinet, the House today weakened the plan slightly. The government warned that due to the financial stability of banks, the supervisory authority the European Central Bank (ECB) should also be asked for advice.
The ECB informed NOS that it is aware of the discussion in the Netherlands about an additional bank tax. Because most details are not yet known, the ECB does not want to give an official response yet. The supervisor does say that it is in contact about the situation with De Nederlandsche Bank.
As a shot across the bow, the ECB points to previous proposals for similar taxes in Italy, Belgium, Spain and Lithuania. The plans were withdrawn after criticism from the ECB.