EU governments miss 33 million euros per hour in unpaid taxes from Europe’s super-rich

Publicado: 11th Abril 2024

EU governments are losing out on a staggering 286.5 billion euros in revenue annually, equivalent to 33 million euros per hour, due to their failure to fairly tax Europe’s wealthiest. This amount, equivalent to Finland’s GDP, represents what a European wealth tax of up to 5 percent could raise every year, according to Oxfam’s analysis. 

The wealthiest 1 percent in Europe owns nearly half of all the financial wealth on the continent, including bank deposits, stocks, bonds, and loans. Since 2020, EU billionaires increased their accumulated wealth by one-third, reaching 1.9 trillion euros last year. At the same time, 99 percent of the EU’s population has become poorer. 

This gap between Europe’s super-rich and ordinary people is widening every year because EU governments are failing to fairly tax extreme wealth. In France, the average person pays approximately 50 percent of their economic income in taxes  – all taxes combined – whereas a person in the top 0.0002 percent only pays 2 percent. In Italy, while most citizens pay between 40 and 50 percent of their income in taxes, billionaires only pay about 20 percent. 

“Up on their luxurious private jets, a privileged few thrive while bills stack higher and higher for the many and the planet burns. Governments can no longer excuse their ‘lack of funds’ for failing to fight the climate crisis and end poverty. The money they need is in the pockets of the super-rich”, said Chiara Putaturo, Oxfam’s EU tax expert.

A progressive wealth tax between 2 and 5 percent rate on the EU’s multi-millionaires and billionaires could collect 286.5 billion euros annually. This money could pay for:

  • Almost 40 percent of the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund. 
  • Over three times the EU’s 7-year aid budget.
  • More than half of the highest estimate of the world annual costs for climate crisis adaptation and mitigation in low- and middle-income countries.

Europe’s wealthiest are also Europe’s biggest polluters. A person from the richest 1 percent emits on average 14 times more carbon (CO2) than a person in the bottom 50 percent. A European wealth tax could also address the excessive emissions of the super-rich, channelling this wealth into funding public services and meeting climate goals.

Nearly 7 in 10 Europeans agree on taxing the rich to support the poor. Oxfam, together with economists, multi-millionaires, and politicians, backs a European Citizens’ Initiative for a European wealth tax. 

Notas para editores

Oxfam EU tax expert, Chiara Putaturo, is available for comment.

Today, Avaaz, WeMove and Oxfam, are organising a stunt in front of the European Parliament to call on EU parliamentarians to tax the rich. 

Oxfam calls on the EU to: 

  • Introduce a European wealth tax;
  • Set a minimum level of taxation on capital gains; 
  • Establish an EU assets registry, storing information on all assets owned by individuals, including luxury goods and financial assets; and
  • Implement windfall and excess profit taxes on big companies.  

Oxfam is supporting, together with politicians, economists like Thomas Piketty and multi-millionaires like Marlene Engelhorn, a European Citizens Initiative for a European wealth tax. The European Citizens' Initiative allows EU citizens to call on the European Commission to propose new legislative initiatives if 1 million signatures are reached. The deadline for signature collection is 9 October 2024.  

Based on Oxfam’s report “Inequality Inc.”, Oxfam calculates that: 

  • A progressive wealth tax on the EU’s multi-millionaires and billionaires at a rate of 2 percent on net wealth above 4.6 million euros, 3 percent on net wealth over 45.7 million euros, and 5 percent on wealth above 913 million euros could generate 286.5 billion euros each year (785 million a day or 32.7 million per hour). The calculation does not include Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Slovakia. 
  • Billionaires’ wealth in the EU has increased by 33 percent from 2020 to November 2023 (from 1.44 trillion euros, adjusted for inflation, to 1.92 trillion euro). This data excludes Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta and Slovenia
  • 99 percent of the EU’s population (around 443 million people) held 5.6 percent less wealth in real terms in 2022 compared to 2019, decreasing from 57 billion euros to 54 billion euros.  
  • The richest 1 percent holds 47 percent of the total financial wealth in Europe. Financial wealth/assets include bank deposits, stocks, bonds, and loans and the figure refers to Europe, as per the UN definition, which also includes countries like Russia, Norway and the UK.

Based on Oxfam’s report “Climate Equality: A Planet for the 99%”, Oxfam found that the EU’s richest 1 percent emitted 6 percent of EU carbon emissions in 2019 and the per capita emission of a person in the EU in the top 1 percent is 14 times more than the per capita emission of a person in the bottom 50 percent. 

According to the EU Tax Observatory, the top 0.0002 percent of the population in France (75 billionaires residing in France), pays about 2 percent in tax on their economic income — including other forms of income not subject to personal income tax, such as social security contributions or profits of companies controlled by tax households. Meanwhile, the population in the 99.99 percentile of the pre-tax income distribution pays an average tax rate between 46 and 54 percent of their economic income (all taxes included). 

In Italy, a similar study reveals that the average tax for Italian billionaires is approximately 20 percent, whereas it ranges between 40 and 50 percent for taxpayers between the 25th and 90th percentile of income distribution. 

Polling consistently finds that most people across countries, including European countries, support raising taxes on the richest. According to the 2023 Eurobarometer, 67% nearly 7 in 10  Europeans agree or strongly agree that it is important for governments to tax the rich to support the poor.  

Brazil’s G20 Presidency is championing a new global agenda to tax the wealthiest on their income and wealth. Economist Gabriel Zucman has been tasked with producing a report on how to implement a global minimum tax on billionaires.

Información de contacto

Julia Manresa at | Work at +32 473 87 44 26 | WhatsApp only +32 479 56 18 12
Jade Tenwick at | Work +32 473 56 22 60 | WhatsApp only +32 484 81 22 94

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