Venezuela's Seniat tax authority says that private oil companies in operating agreements with state oil firm PDVSA must pay their 2005 taxes at the 50% rate and not the 34% rate contemplated in the tax code for service companies, newspaper El Universal reported.
The companies began 2005 by paying taxes at 34%, arguing they were providing a service to PDVSA, but they "made an incorrect interpretation of the legal framework in effect," the paper quoted Seniat official Noel González as saying.
In April 2005 Seniat notified the companies the payments should have been made under the 50% rate established by the hydrocarbons law, the paper reported.
Seniat is already questioning the taxes paid by private oil companies in the 2001-2004 period. A number of companies have already been presented with claims corresponding to allegedly unpaid taxes for the period.
Seniat singled out 21 foreign oil companies last year as owing the government a total US$3bn and plans to complete the process of serving the companies with claims corresponding to the 2000-2004 period by end-January 2006, a Seniat official told BNamericas in November.
Eight companies have already been served with claims, including Brazil's Petrobras, French firms Total and Perenco, Italy's Eni, Japan's Teikoku, Anglo-Dutch major Shell, Spain's Repsol YPF and Texas-based Harvest-Vinccler.
The only company that has paid any money towards their claim is Harvest. Shell and Eni have introduced legal recourses to have their cases reviewed.
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