Everything is unfortunate in the transfer of the Ferrovial headquarters to the Netherlands: the group's own march, its deficient communication to the market and to society, the hysterical reaction of the Government, the accusation and public disqualification (one more) of a private businessman or the use of the Tax Agency to threaten him and those who dare. Nothing is saved.
More than an economic issue, Ferrovial has been the great electoral topic of recent weeks. Moncloa has removed all the filters of institutional modesty to frame the relocation of the construction company in a conflict between the pre-constitutional oligarchy and the people. The language chosen, with generous references to the Franco regime, family wealth or tax greed, has demoted Rafael del Pino to the category of Mr Scrooge, and has erased from the debate any trace of a real problem: Spain's loss of competitiveness in terms of the risk of European funds disappears from the equation. Pedro Sánchez has not tried to retain Ferrovial, but to control the message. And he has escaped well.
The construction company may have good and peremptory reasons for taking its headquarters to Amsterdam, among them that only the origin of the founders remains Spanish. With 90% of its business abroad, does Ferrovial owe anything to the country where it was born? Are there reasons for a minimal reproach of ungratefulness? Clearly yes.
The history of the internationalization of large companies since the beginning of the century was known as the era of national champions. The Ibex multinationals conquered outer space in a relationship that seemed symbiotic for the country's reputational success. But in reality they were financing the process with the taxes of all the citizens.
In the highly recommended And this, who pays? (Debate, 2023), the Treasury inspector and former Ciudadanos deputy Francisco de la Torre explains how the perverse tax legislation that came into force on those dates exempted large companies with subsidiaries abroad from taxation of dividends, such as It is logical. But it is that at the same time the financial costs of the investment could be deducted. Therefore, it was more profitable for a company to go into debt to seek new markets, especially in low-tax countries, than to stay in the Peninsula: they paid less tax on profits and the interest on the liabilities acquired went to the Spanish Treasury.
The financial crisis of 2008 put an end to that mirage. Successive corporate tax collection records contained a trap in the form of a "tax bubble." That surplus was due to unsustainable real estate activity, while the State was losing money in spurts due to the discounts applied by multinationals in their foreign expansion.
The Government of Mariano Rajoy had to eliminate the deductions by force in 2012, but the level of corporate tax collection has never recovered. In the first 2000, as the slogan of the Treasury said, we were all the Ibex too. Just in memory of that, Ferrovial should have at least better explained his farewell.
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