Seniat Collects US$126mn in Back Taxes So Far

Venezuela's Seniat tax authority has collected a total 270bn bolivares (US$126mn) in back taxes from oil firms for the 2001-2004 period as part of a probe into companies that held oilfield operating contracts with state oil giant PDVSA, newspaper El Universal reported.

The companies include majors such as the UK's BP, Anglo-Dutch firm Shell, Spain's Repsol YPF and US company Chevron as well as independents such as local company Vinccler Oil and Gas.

"We will recover those taxes, companies such as BP, Vinccler and Shell are paying, they are all meeting their obligations," Seniat head Josť Vielma Mora was quoted as saying.

Vielma said the payments are part of a total US$651mn demanded from 19 of the 22 companies, which until last year held operating contracts in Venezuela. The companies were forced to migrate their contracts to new joint ventures controlled by PDVSA.

Vielma said the remaining three companies had yet to be notified of back taxes that they owed.

The government says companies should have paid the taxes using a 50% rate as required for production contracts, while companies had been using a 34% rate, in some cases for more than a decade, without any complaints from the tax authority.

The claims are part of a broad effort by Venezuela's government to squeeze extra money out of oil companies by retroactively altering the tax rates for oil projects. The back taxes are part of an investigation into what government officials call "tax irregularities" in the energy sector.

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