EU blacklist: subjective criteria and opacity will not end tax havens

Published: 8th November 2016

In response to EU Finance Ministers’ decision to adopt criteria to screen countries for tax abuse, Aurore Chardonnet, Oxfam’s EU tax expert said:

“The EU has copped out on making real strides today in the fight against tax abuse by adopting subjective criteria for a much anticipated and politically contentious EU tax havens blacklist. Opacity remains the name of the game as it is being reported that EU Finance Ministers also decided to keep the list of countries they want to screen for tax abuse secret.

“Today has shown just how much EU member states are in cahoots with multinationals as they couldn’t agree on a zero percent corporate tax rate as a marker for outing tax havens. This means that countries reducing companies’ tax bills could be blacklisted, but tax havens that don’t tax at all, like the Cayman Islands or Bermuda, would not be targeted.  Without this key indicator, and reportedly without the list of countries in the public domain, the EU blacklist won’t worth be the paper it will end up written on.

“EU countries should acknowledge their tax sovereignty is damaged not by more tax cooperation but by tax competition and this relentless tax race to the bottom. This just increases the pressure on governments to reduce big companies’ tax bills, leaving citizens to cough up.

"The European Commission has been working hard to clamp down on tax havens but it’s clearly being blocked by some key EU member states. While Oxfam is supportive of the Commission, we cannot support an initiative that is not objective and does not ultimately target corporate tax havens.

"Corporate tax havens help big business cheat countries and their citizens out of spiralling amounts of tax every year, fuelling an inequality crisis where just 62 people own the same wealth as half of humanity.”

Notes to editors

  • EU finance ministers today adopted conclusions on criteria for the screening of third country jurisdictions; a process for selecting jurisdictions to be screened; guidelines for the screening process.The final EU blacklist is expected to be published towards the end of 2017.
  • Read Oxfam’s statement released ahead of the EU finance ministers meeting,detailing under which circumstances an EU blacklist can help effectively addressing corporate tax dodging.
  • Tax havens offer companies a series of opportunities to pay a minimal amount of tax. These include: zero or extremely low corporate tax rates, high levels of financial secrecy, the provision of unfair and unproductive tax incentives, and a lack of effective rules to prevent profit shifting to other tax havens.
  • In March 2015, Oxfam published “Pulling the Plug – How to stop corporate tax dodging in Europe and beyond”, a briefing note that explores ways to fight corporate tax avoidance in the European Union. It explains why it is vital for the EU to adopt legislation against tax dodging as soon as possible.
  • In November 2015 Oxfam, TJN, GATJ and PSI published “Still Broken”. This report found that in 2012, US multinationals alone shifted $500–700bn, or roughly 25 percent of their annual profits, mostly to countries where these profits are not taxed, or taxed at very low rates. Most of this money ends up in a handful of countries including the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland, Bermuda and Switzerland.
  • Oxfam analysed 200 companies, including the world’s biggest and the World Economic Forum’s strategic partners, and has found that nine out of ten of the world’s biggest companies use tax havens.
  • The “World Investment Report” of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates that developing countries lose at least US$100 billion per year in corporate tax revenue due to tax dodging by large companies. This money could ensure that every one of the 121 million children globally who are currently out of school get an education and provide healthcare services across Africa that could save the lives of 4 million children.

Contact information

Florian Oel | Brussels | | office +32 2 234 11 15 | mobile +32 473 56 22 60

For updates, please follow @Oxfam and @OxfamEU