BRUSSELS – The European Commission opened on Thursday an investigation into Nike Inc.’s tax deals with the Netherlands, which could potentially lead to the United States company having to pay back millions of euros.
The probe concerns two Nike group companies based in the Netherlands: Nike European Operations Netherlands BV and Converse Netherlands BV, which develop, market and record the sales of Nike and Converse products in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
From 2006 to 2015, Dutch tax authorities issued five so-called tax rulings, which allow the companies to pay less tax than other competitors, a move which could amount to illegal state aid, according to the commission.
The probe comes after several US companies were ordered to pay millions of euros to different European countries where they had struck sweetheart tax deals.
The biggest sum, 14.3 billion euros ($16.31 billion), was paid by Apple Inc. into an escrow account in Ireland in 2016. Apple is challenging the decision. Amazon.com Inc. in 2017 also had to pay 282.7 million euros to Luxembourg, while Starbucks Corp. was ordered in 2015 to pay 25.7 million euros to the Netherlands.
“Member states should not allow companies to set up complex structures that unduly reduce their taxable profits and give them an unfair advantage over competitors,” said competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager – whose tax decisions have earned her the nickname “tax lady” from President Trump.