* Luxembourg PM says our rules in line with those in Europe
* Commission has chastised Luxembourg in past
(Adds comments from Luxembourg's Bettel)
By Michele Sinner and John O'Donnell
LUXEMBOURG/BRUSSELS, July 4 The European
Commission is widening its probe into how multinationals use
countries such as Luxembourg to cut their tax bill, an official
with knowledge of the matter said on Friday.
Last month, the Commission warned Ireland, another EU
country that offers companies offshore tax status, that it could
investigate more companies beyond Apple Inc as part of
its probe into European tax practices.
"The Commission continues to gather information on the tax
practices of member states ... and this might lead to new formal
investigations," said the official, who declined to be named
because of the sensitivity of the matter.
"It would be premature to speculate on whether ... formal
investigations could be opened about any specific company."
Luxembourg is used by many multinationals including online
retailer Amazon, building equipment maker Caterpillar
and UK mobile telecoms group Vodafone.
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel was asked by
journalists on Friday whether the country had been requested to
provide information about Amazon, but declined to comment.
"We cooperate closely with the Commission and talk directly
to the Commission representatives ... and we are absolutely
confident that rules we apply are in line with European rules,"
Pushed by France and Germany, Brussels is keen to clamp down
on what it sees as unfair tax competition across the bloc.
If the Commission can prove countries such as Luxembourg and
Ireland agree tax treatments that diverge from international
rules, it could deem any corporate tax savings to be a form of
subsidy that must be halted or even repaid.
In a strongly worded statement in March, the Commission, the
EU executive, chastised Luxembourg, saying it had "failed to
adequately answer previous requests for information" and ordered
it to outline many details of its tax system.
Earlier this year, the finance ministry in Luxembourg said
it had "doubts about the legality of certain aspects of the
European Commission's information requests".
Corporate profit-shifting has come under the international
spotlight in recent years following reports of how companies
such as Apple use complex structures to slash their tax bills.
A Reuters examination in 2012 of accounts filed by 25 Amazon
units in six countries showed how tax arrangements in Luxembourg
also allowed the company to avoid paying more tax in the United
States, where the company is based.
Tax advisers say Luxembourg has helped attract more than
40,000 holding companies and thousands of high-paying jobs for
its population of nearly half a million.
GRAPHIC on Amazon in EU: link.reuters.com/xyz44t
(Writing by Robin Emmott; Editing by Susan Fenton)