New research by the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) shows that the German coronavirus test producer Qiagen has been able to dodge millions of euros in tax since 2010 thanks to tax avoidance constructions in Ireland, Luxembourg, the US and Malta. Qiagen is one of the world’s leading producers of coronavirus test kits and is currently benefiting from mass orders from governments around the world. It is one of the major suppliers of COVID-19 test kits in the US. New SOMO research reveals that the biotech giant also received huge amounts of public funding from the US and the Netherlands, among others.
Jasper van Teeffelen, tax researcher at SOMO, said: “The global healthcare sector is under enormous financial pressure due to the coronavirus crisis. It is distressing to see that precisely a company like Qiagen is avoiding tax on a large scale and depriving governments of much-needed income.”
Qiagen is officially a Dutch company. Although its operational headquarters are in Germany, its headquarters are in Venlo (the Netherlands). Qiagen has 5,200 employees worldwide and generated revenues of €1.3 billion in 2019. In the second quarter of 2020, the company posted a profit of €77 million – double the amount made in the same period in 2019.
Tax avoidance by Qiagen
Research by SOMO into the annual accounts of the company shows how Qiagen has avoided tax on these profits. The company has set up a network of letterbox companies in European tax havens including Ireland, Luxembourg and Malta in order to avoid tax through internal loans. SOMO estimates that, since 2010, the company has avoided €93 million in tax and has accumulated a tax deduction of €49 million. This is a conservative estimate because not all potential avoidance structures have been investigated. One of the two tax avoidance structures used involves tax avoidance on interest income from Qiagen intercompany loans to the US.
Vincent Kiezebrink, tax researcher at SOMO, said: “It is shocking to see how hard this biotech giant is trying to avoid tax. We call on Qiagen and the EU to put an end to such tax avoidance schemes.”
The company declined to respond to SOMO’s findings on tax avoidance.
Public benefits not public burdens
To add insult to injury, the new research also shows that Qiagen has received public funds from the Dutch and American government, among others. The US Department of Health recently provided €511,000 in funding to Qiagen to accelerate development of a new COVID-19 test. These are the very test kits that are currently being procured on a massive scale – with public money – by the Netherlands, the US and other countries around the globe to help stave of the global pandemic.
Governments must intervene
This study shows once again how multinational corporations such as Qiagen can use tax havens in Europe, such as Luxembourg and Ireland, to avoid tax through internal loans. SOMO therefore calls on the European Union and the Netherlands to introduce better rules to prevent tax avoidance, and to impose stricter conditions on public funding. Wemos – a Dutch non-profit organisation on global health which published a study on public funding of medicines in 2019, together with SOMO – underlines the report’s recommendations.
Ella Weggen, global health advocate for Wemos, said: “Transparency about public investments is desperately needed. Conditions must be attached to this public funding in terms of affordability and accessibility, so that people actually benefit from medicines and medical devices developed with their taxpayers’ money.”