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15th Dec 2019

Tax haven list to 'whitewash' EU culprits

  • Oxfam says Malta would be on the EU blacklist of tax havens if member states had been included (Photo: Berit Watkin)

Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, and the Netherlands should be on the EU's upcoming tax haven blacklist, according to Oxfam, a global NGO.

But the four member states will be excluded because the list, to be announced next week by EU finance ministers and to be accompanied by potential sanctions, will only cover non-EU jurisdictions.

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The NGO said in a report out on Tuesday (28 November) that the exclusions cast doubt on the credibility of the EU list.

"EU governments have a choice between ending the harmful impact of tax havens on both the EU and developing countries - or whitewashing tax havens," Oxfam's Aurore Chardonnet said.

Aggressive tax planning was said to cost the developing world some €100 billion in lost revenues every year.

The figure underpins a broader and separate debate on development and job growth ahead of an EU-Africa summit in the Ivory Coast this week.

Earlier this month, a consortium of investigative journalists published a first series of articles following a leak of some 13 million documents from the Bermuda-based law firm Appleby, which handles offshore accounts.

It showed, for instance, how Swiss commodity giant Glencore used tax tricks to shift revenues away from African national coffers.

Oxfam's Chardonnet said the upcoming EU list was likely to be "empty" given its limited scope and given the political pressure from wealthy non-EU states such as Switzerland.

An EU so-called Code of Conduct group, set up by member states, is currently screening the jurisdictions of 92 non-EU countries to see who should be on the blacklist.

The group is using criteria based on transparency, fair taxation, and international efforts to tax profits where those profits have been made.

Oxfam applied those same criteria and came up with a list of at least 35 non-EU countries as well as the four member states.

Chardonnet said the secrecy surrounding the EU group's deliberations on the blacklist meant the public was largely "left in the dark".

Earlier this month, Pierre Moscovici, the EU finance commissioner, demanded member states come up with a credible list following the Appleby revelations of widespread tax avoidance and evasion by some of the world's most powerful people.

"There is no point in just having one country on the black list of tax havens," he said at the time.

The comment was largely directed towards the OECD, a Paris-based club of advanced economies, which, in July, designated Trinidad and Tobago as the world's only non-cooperative jurisdiction on tax transparency.

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