Home Travel agency Italy asks Dutch to interview former Booking.com executives in tax probe

Italy asks Dutch to interview former Booking.com executives in tax probe

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The logo of online accommodation booking site Booking.com is pictured at the International Tourism Fair (ITB) in Berlin, Germany March 9, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

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MILAN, Feb 8 (Reuters) – Italian prosecutors are investigating two former chief financial officers of Booking.com over allegations of unpaid taxes by the travel site company and have asked Dutch authorities to question them, two officials told Reuters. sources familiar with the case. .

In June last year, Italian tax police alleged that Booking.com had evaded 153 million euros ($175 million) in value added tax (VAT) in connection with vacation rentals booked through its platform from 2013 to 2019. read more

Booking.com, based in the Netherlands, acts as an intermediary between owners and customers. Private hosting sites that are not professionally managed often do not have a VAT number. But the Italian tax authorities believe that the online travel agency should then collect the tax in such cases.

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A Booking.com spokesperson said the company was cooperating with the Italian investigation.

“We continue to engage actively and transparently with the Italian tax authorities as part of our commitment to ensuring compliance with all local laws, and we look forward to continuing the dialogue,” the spokesperson said.

The company said hotel and bed and breakfast owners using its platform are themselves responsible for collecting and paying the VAT they owe in Italy and other European Union countries. .

Italian tax police said they believe failure to levy the tax allows Booking.com, owned by Delaware-based Booking Holdings Inc (BKNG.O), to undermine other hotel groups on the one of the most popular tourist markets in the world.

Italy’s tax authority backed the findings of the initial tax police audit of Booking.com and initiated proceedings allowing the company to either pay the outstanding sum or contest any allegations of wrongdoing, the authorities said. sources.

RESEARCHED DATA

Prosecutors in the Italian port city of Genoa sent their Rotterdam colleagues a European Investigation Order (EIO) last month asking them to obtain data on, among other things, the company’s turnover with private parties, the sources said.

The Italian magistrates also asked their Dutch colleagues to question Olivier Bisserier, chief financial officer of Booking.com from 2013 to 2019, and Marcela Martin, chief financial officer from 2019 to 2020, both indicted in connection with the tax allegations against Booking.com, according to the sources. noted.

The two former Booking.com executives did not respond to emails from Reuters seeking comment.

In the OIE document, Italian magistrates noted that questioning the two former chief financial officers could shed some light and potentially allow prosecutors to ask for the investigation of the two executives to be dropped.

A first European investigation order sent by the Italians in August 2018 regarding Booking.com was rejected by Rotterdam prosecutors in May 2019, while a second request containing additional information from August 2019 did not receive a decision. response, the sources said.

The Rotterdam prosecutor’s office declined to comment.

Booking.com accounts for 68.4% of hotel sales made by online travel agencies in Italy, according to a 2021 study by European hotel association HOTREC.

($1 = 0.8744 euros)

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Additional reporting by Toby Sterling in Amsterdam Editing by Keith Weir and Jane Merriman

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