Venezuela's Tax Authority Could Seize Total Assets Failing Payment

Venezuela's Seniat tax authority could seize assets from French oil major Total (NYSE: TOT) if the company does not pay the 231bn bolivares (US$107mn) Seniat says it owes for unpaid taxes from 2001 to 2004, state news agency ABN reported.

Seniat shut down Total's administrative headquarters on Thursday and Friday as a penalty for allegedly shoddy bookkeeping but that is not the worst Total can expect if it does not pay up, ABN quoted Seniat special contributors' manager Jose Cedillo as saying.

"Depending on the company's reaction, the fine could get more and more serious. That's why we are calling on them to come forward," Cedillo said, adding that the 231bn bolivares could increase to 600bn bolivares once a full fine of 250% over the alleged unpaid amount and interests is added.

A Seniat official contacted by BNamericas said that by law the authority can take action "over both [Total's] the physical assets and bank accounts" but declined to say which option would take priority.

At the heart of the conflict between Total and Seniat lies the latter's decision last year to apply a 50% tax rate retroactively to companies operating oil fields for state oil firm PDVSA since 2001 instead of the 34% that Total and others in its situation had been paying for more than a decade.

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