Italy targets Booking.com over alleged tax evasion

MILAN (AFP) – The online reservation platform Booking.com is suspected of having avoided EUR150 million in value-added tax in Italy, financial police in Genoa said yesterday

Netherlands-based Booking.com, one of the global giants of hotel reservations on the web, has “failed to apply the tax on brokering of rentals of private homes and guest rooms”, said police in a statement.

Covering the years 2013 to 2019, the investigation “revealed a large-scale tax evasion of more than EUR150 million of VAT”, said the statement. Over the six-year period, Booking.com should have paid more than EUR153 million in VAT on EUR700 million in commissions in Italy, according to police.

A spokesperson from Booking.com said the company was studying the VAT audit report furnished by Italy.

“In line with applicable EU VAT law, it is our position that all of our partners in the EU, including in Italy, are responsible for self-assessing local VAT and remitting this to their respective government,” the spokesperson said. Founded in the Netherlands in 1996, the subsidiary of US Booking Holdings (formerly Priceline Group), was audited over its activities in France from 2003 to 2012 and ordered in 2015 to pay 356 million euros in past tax due.

Booking.com had argued the taxes claimed by French tax authorities were paid in the Netherlands, which has a lower corporate tax than France.

In early June, the platform said it would reimburse the Dutch government EUR60 million euros in aid received during the coronavirus pandemic, after the outcry over the company’s payment of EUR28 million in bonuses to its executives.