Lack of transparency continues to undermine EU tax haven blacklist

Published: 23rd January 2018

EU finance ministers have decided today to remove eight countries from the EU’s blacklist for tax havens.

Reacting to the news, Oxfam’s EU Policy Advisor on tax and inequality, Aurore Chardonnet, said:

“The EU is rushing to take countries off the blacklist without it being clear what they have actually committed to improve; this is further undermining the process.

“EU member states must heed the European Commission’s calls for more transparency and make public the commitments that countries on the so-called ‘grey list’ have made. Transparency means that both tax havens and the EU can be held to account, and the blacklisting process leads to actual reforms that help fight inequality.

“It is no secret that tax havens remain at the heart of the EU, with four European countries actually failing the EU’s own blacklisting criteria. EU governments should tackle tax havens within the EU with the same urgency they are pressuring other countries to adopt tax reforms that were decided by an exclusive club of rich countries.”

Notes to editors

  • Oxfam’s EU Policy Advisor on tax and inequality, Aurore Chardonnet, is available for interviews and background in Brussels.
  • The fight against tax dodging is key to end extreme inequality, a topic discussed at the World Economic Forum in Davos, which started today. Oxfam exposed on Monday that 82% of the wealth generated last year went to the richest 1% of the global population, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw no increase in their wealth.
  • Last December, the EU released its first EU blacklist of tax havens. The list included 17 mostly small countries. The EU also published an additional ‘grey list’ of countries that currently qualify as tax havens, but have promised reforms.
  • The jurisdictions that have now been moved from the blacklist to the ‘grey list’ are Barbados, Grenada, Korea, Macao, Mongolia, Panama, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. The decision leaves 9 jurisdictions on the list: American Samoa, Bahrain, Guam, Marshall Islands, Namibia, Palau, Saint Lucia, Samoa and Trinidad and Tobago.
  • In November 2017, Oxfam published the report ‘Blacklist or whitewash?’, showing what a robust blacklist of tax havens would look like if the EU were to objectively apply its own criteria and not bow to political pressures. Oxfam concluded that at least 35 non-EU countries should be included in the EU tax haven blacklist. In addition, 4 EU member states fail the EU’s own criteria: Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Malta.
  • An interactive map shows the 39 countries listed in the report and explains why they should have been blacklisted by the EU.
  • Following the Paradise Papers scandal, Oxfam released a 5-point plan outlining steps governments should take to prevent further scandals on a global scale. This includes establishing a global blacklist of tax havens that names countries such as Ireland and the Netherlands -  key players in the Paradise Papers scandal.
  • The EU committed to a blacklist process in the wake of scandals like the Panama Papers and Lux Leaks that showed how tax havens let companies and the super-rich get away with billions in unpaid taxes. The EU blacklist is based on three criteria: transparency, fair taxation, and participation in international fora on tax.
  • The EU’s blacklisting negotiations have taken place behind closed doors, and countries participating in the talks have refused to answer questions. The process has been in the hands of one of Brussels’ most secretive working bodies, the so-called Code of Conduct Group, which insists on its work being confidential.
  • 86% of European are in favor of “tougher rules on tax avoidance and tax havens”, while 8% are “against the idea” according to the Standard Eurobarometer, published in July 2017.
  • Tax dodging costs developing countries $170 billion a year: $70 billion through tax dodging by super-rich individuals and $100 billion through corporate tax dodging. 

Contact information

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

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