EU tax havens list: a nonsense exercise

Published: 17th October 2023

Today, European finance ministers updated the EU tax havens list. They added Antigua and Barbuda, Belize and Seychelles to the blacklist and removed the British Virgin Islands, Costa Rica and the Marshall Islands.

In response, Chiara Putaturo, Oxfam EU tax expert, said: 

“For how much longer will the EU persist in this nonsense exercise? The list is toothless. It leaves off the hook zero tax countries like the British Virgin Islands and fails to screen countries like the US and the UK along with EU tax havens like Luxembourg and Malta. It’s an insult to ordinary people struggling with soaring bills while the super-rich and profit-hungry multinationals get a free pass to escape their tax obligations.

“The EU must deliver on its long-standing promise to reform the list if they are serious about fighting tax havens. Countries deemed too big to be listed can no longer escape scrutiny. Countries allowing companies to pay essentially a zero-tax bill or to hide their real owners must face blacklisting. The EU also cannot afford to turn a blind eye to tax havens within its own borders.”  

Notes to editors

Chiara Putaturo is available for interview and comment.

Oxfam labelled the EU’s last review of the tax havens blacklist a joke and called for stronger criteria to automatically blacklist zero and low tax rate countries as well as hold European countries to the same level of scrutiny as non-European countries. Oxfam also called for the implementation of two long-announced reforms: (a) a criterion on beneficial ownership transparency for the list i.e. who owns the company and; (b) the expansion of the list’s geographical scope to include more countries like the US and the UK. 

Read Oxfam’s 2021 Tax Briefing for why and how the EU should reform its rules on tax havens.

In July 2020, the European Commission asked the Code of Conduct Group, the Council body responsible for the EU list of tax havens, to reform the EU tax havens list criteria. Progress has yet to be made. In July 2023, the Council called on the Code of Conduct Group (CCG) to continue its work to incorporate the beneficial ownership criterion, and to extend the geographical scope of the EU list. Still, it remains to be seen when the CCG will introduce these reforms. Oxfam called on the Spanish and the Belgian EU presidencies to strengthen the criteria for the EU tax havens blacklist and improve the governance and transparency of the Code of Conduct Group for Business Taxation.

The current EU blacklist includes only:

The British Virgin Islands, which was delisted from the blacklist today, is first in the TJN Corporate Tax Havens Index.

The European Commission recently demanded that Luxembourg and Malta take measures to tackle aggressive tax planning.

Oxfam’s report, Survival of the Richest, revealed that the richest 1% grabbed 54% of all new wealth created in the last 10 years and nearly two-thirds of all new wealth created since 2020. Tax havens have played a role in this explosion of wealth as they allow the richest to avoid their tax obligations.

A recent Oxfam analysis shows that 722 mega-corporations raked in $1 trillion a year in windfall profits in 2021 and 2022. Meanwhile, one billion workers from 50 countries took a $746 billion real term pay cut in 2022.

Contact information

Julia Manresa | Brussels, Belgium | | mobile +32 473 87 44 26    
Jade Tenwick I Brussels, Belgium | | mobile +32 473 56 22 60   

For updates, please follow @OxfamEU. You can also find us on LinkedIn.