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The following article came to my attention:

OneWorld - Kunstenares Tinkebell toert langs kamerplanten van belastingontwijkers (Dutch).

It describes how an artist will be doing tours of companies that have a letterbox office in The Netherlands. The remarkable part is that these companies are deemed "real" (i.e. not a letterbox company) by the Dutch tax agency as they all have a houseplant in the office. The article cites part of the book Het Euro Evangelie by Arno Wellens:

De belastingdienst bedacht een regel die (buitenlandse) bedrijven die in Nederland geregistreerd zijn, verplicht om een kamerplant op kantoor hebben. Dat staat in het boek Het Euro Evangelie van financieel journalist Arno Wellens. Omdat er af en toe iemand op kantoor moet zijn om de plant water te geven, vormen de planten het 'bewijs' dat bedrijven die op papier in Nederland zijn gevestigd, hier ook metterdaad kantoor houden.

Translation:

The tax agency came up with a rule requiring (foreign) companies, registered in The Netherlands, to have a houseplant in the office. This is written in the book Het Euro Evangelie by financial journalist Arno Wellens. As someone needs to be in the office to water the plants now and then, the plants are "proof" that the registered companies actually do business in their Dutch office.

My understanding is that once it is determined that a company actually does business in The Netherlands it is no longer considered a shady letterbox company and it can enjoy various tax perks (please correct me if I'm wrong).

The OneWorld article cites an article in De Groene Amsterdammer, which refers to 925.nl. The latter refers to questions asked in The House of Representatives, but the questions seem only to be related to letterbox companies. I cannot find where they mention the houseplant issue.

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    nowhere does it state that this is the law. The Dutch text indicates it's used as an indication that people visit the office and that thus there are local employees. This is of course highly suspicious as it's very easy to hire the services of another company to do the watering (and cleaning). MAYBE some tax inspectors use the presence of plants as one of several criteria, but as many "real" companies don't have plants it's certainly not a requirement to be considered a company. – jwenting Apr 7 '17 at 6:34
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    Just to be clear: I understand it's not a law and that it's not required to have a houseplant in the office to be considered a company. What I'm wondering is: when the tax agency physically goes to check on a letterbox company and sees a houseplant in the office, will it then assume that the company is actively doing business in the country? – Saaru Lindestøkke Apr 7 '17 at 12:17
  • I seriously doubt they will. Maybe some tax inspectors may be so gullible, but I doubt it. – jwenting Apr 7 '17 at 13:50
  • I am sure it is not a case of fooling the tax inspector. But cultivating a potted plant in the office space may meet the letter of the law and qualify as "business activity". If so, the tax inspectors are not fooled, but cannot do anything about it. – David42 Apr 24 '18 at 16:41
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    @David42 cannot do anything about it This is the part that I am wondering about: is a houseplant sufficient to hinder the work of the tax inspector? If you have a source, feel free to share it. – Saaru Lindestøkke Apr 24 '18 at 20:28

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