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AP Worldstream: Venezuela warns Total: pay taxes this week or offices could be shut

Mar 16, 2006
Venezuela's tax authority warned the French oil firm Total SA that it could have its administrative offices shut as soon as Friday if it fails to pay a US$107 million (A89 million) tax bill.
Total is one of 22 oil firms that the tax agency has accused of misreading the nation's tax code and inflating tax deductions.
The tax agency's statement came a day after it said Total had agreed to pay part of its overdue tax bill this week. The tax agency has previously threatened the French oil company with fines and possible property seizures if it doesn't settle its tax bill promptly.
Total officials were not immediately available for comment.
The tax agency temporarily closed the commercial offices of Royal Dutch Shell Plc. last year for not paying its tax bill on time. Shell managed to negotiate a reduction in its retroactive tax bill after months of talks. It was fined US$130 million (A108 million) in early 2005, buy wound up paying only 10 percent of the original bill.
Venezuelan tax authorities say private and foreign state oil firms owe a total of nearly US$800 million (A665 million) in unpaid taxes from 2001 to 2004.
The tax agency also said that small oil firm Hocol, owned by Knightsbridge Petroleum Ltd., was presented with a retroactive tax bill for US$7.8 million (A6.5 million) as part of the same oil industry audit.

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