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Shell faces Venezuelan tax demand

Date Class
14th Jul 2005 Other Issue
Venezuela has ordered oil giant Shell to pay $131m (74m) in what it says is unpaid tax, as part of a clampdown on alleged tax avoidance by foreign firms.

In a separate move, the country's tax authority seized documents belonging to US oil firm Chevron which it said had not been produced upon request.

Venezuelan authorities have said that foreign firms may owe up to $3bn (1.7bn) in unpaid taxes.

Neither Shell nor Chevron were available for comment.

President Chavez has sought to maximise income from foreign-held contracts.

His government is reviewing all foreign investment in the mining industry to see if it provides maximum benefits to the country.

Existing oil contracts have also been audited.

Seniat, Venezuela's tax authority, said on Thursday that the tax demand for RoyalDutch Shell related to the period between 2001 and 2004.

It also confirmed that it had confiscated data from a Chevron office as part of what it described as "an administrative measure".

The seizure followed claims by the agency last week that it could fine foreign firms, and close premises, for failing to adhere to tax laws.

President Chavez has sought to expand the state's influence over all areas of the economy.

Last year, he increased the royalty payments payable by foreign oil firms with drilling rights in Venezuela from 1% of the sale price to 16%.

This and other measures has led to strained relations with the United States, to which Venezuela exports 60% of its oil.




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