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Unilever CEO Polman defends Dutch government's cut to dividend tax

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Unilever CEO Polman defends Dutch government's cut to dividend tax

Unilever CEO Polman defends Dutch government's cut to dividend tax
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Benoit Tessier(Reuters)
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By Toby Sterling

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The chief executive of Unilever<ULVR.L> Paul Polman on Thursday defended the Dutch government's plan to scrap a withholding tax on dividends as good for the Netherlands' economy, despite its unpopularity domestically.

In an interview with national broadcaster NOS, Polman said the tax was a "double tax" that was driving some companies to move elsewhere. "The global tendency is that dividend taxes are going down," he told NOS.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says scrapping the tax will make the Netherlands more attractive for foreign investment. It is set to cost the government around 2 billion euros in lost revenues, however, rather than an initially forecast 1.3 billion euros, which has stirred fresh opposition.

Anglo-Dutch Unilever picked Rotterdam over London for its main headquarters earlier this year. Polman repeated that the Dutch move to scrap the tax, which does not exist in Britain, played a role in the company's decision.

Rutte survived a no-confidence vote in April over the tax after memos emerged showing Shell and Unilever had both lobbied for the tax cut as he was forming his new government in 2017.

In December, the country's Central Bureau for Statistics estimated that some 20 percent of the country's jobs were created directly or indirectly by multinational companies.

But several experts this month said the tax cut would make no difference to employment.

Members of parties of Rutte's own coalition said they only accepted the cut as part of the governing pact.

On Friday, Rutte defended the tax again, arguing that there are only a handful of large multinationals in the Netherlands and when one departs, "it can never be replaced."

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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