EU blacklisting criteria puts Ireland’s tax haven status beyond doubt

EU blacklisting criteria puts Ireland’s tax haven status beyond doubt

·         More royalties sent out of Ireland than rest of EU combined, equivalent to 26% of GDP in 2015

·         New Oxfam report urges EU to tackle tax avoidance within member states

Tuesday, 28th November 2017

A new report published by Oxfam today has identified Ireland as one of four EU countries which would be blacklisted1 as a tax haven if the EU were to apply its own criteria to member states.

The EU is currently drafting a blacklist for tax havens, analysing 92 non–EU countries and jurisdictions against a set of three criteria, which include tax transparency and policies that facilitate large-scale profit shifting. However, this process excludes EU member states, meaning that they will not be assessed.

For the first time, Oxfam has applied the EU’s own criteria to 92 countries worldwide as well as to the 28 EU member states. According to the analysis, at least 35 non-EU countries should be included in the EU tax haven blacklist.

Furthermore, four EU member states: Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Malta also met the criteria for being listed as a tax haven.

Ireland fails to meet the second criterion on fair taxation and the facilitation of tax avoidance. For example, the report establishes that royalties sent out of Ireland were equivalent to 26% of the country’s gross domestic product in 2015. That is more royalties than are sent out of the rest of the EU combined, and makes Ireland the world’s number one royalties provider2.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “As Ireland fails the EU’s blacklisting criteria, it is clear that the Government has questions to answer with regard to its stated commitment to tackling tax avoidance. In the past, the case has been made that because Ireland’s tax arrangements fulfilled OECD standards there was no substantiation that Ireland matched the conditions associated with tax haven status. The OECD’s blacklisting process has been called into question due to the fact that it only listed one country Trinidad and Tobago as a tax haven.

“The analysis in this report uses the very measurements the EU is currently applying to 92 non-EU states to assess whether they should be blacklisted as tax havens. Sadly, this analysis places Ireland in an elite club with four other EU countries; Malta, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.”

The report, Blacklist or Whitewash: What a real EU blacklist of tax havens should look like, shows how financial flows are often completely out of proportion with the tax havens’ real economic activity. In the British Virgin Islands, foreign direct investment amounts to 90,000% of the country’s GDP. For the Cayman Islands, it represents 5,400% of the GDP, for Malta 650% and for Luxembourg approximately 400%.

Oxfam is concerned that, regardless of these clear findings, EU governments will come up with a weak or even empty blacklist. The blacklist is being drafted in secret, which makes public scrutiny impossible. The Maltese EU presidency has publicly advocated for an empty blacklist. Also, following a meeting with EU finance ministers, the Swiss government has openly declared it does not expect the country to be blacklisted.

Oxfam is also urging the EU to put rules in place to reform the tax systems of EU countries like Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Malta which meet the EU’s criteria for being listed as a tax haven.

Mr Clarken continued: “An ambitious and objective list of tax havens with strong countermeasures is a concrete and powerful way to clamp down on tax avoidance which deprives countries of hundreds of billions of dollars, fueling poverty and inequality. If the EU is serious about preventing tax havens from engaging in harmful practices that affect us all then it should stand up to political and corporate pressure and create a genuine blacklist, not a whitewash.”

ENDS

CONTACT: For more information or interviews, please contact Alice Dawson, Oxfam Ireland, on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 or at alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

1.     Blacklist: Establish a “blacklist” of countries that refuse to adhere to international taxation rules. Listed countries should face stiff penalties.

Oxfam applied the EU’s own criteria to the 92 countries screened by the EU, and the 28 EU member states. According to Oxfam’s analysis, at least 35 non-EU countries should be included in the EU tax haven blacklist: Albania, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bermuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, British Virgin Islands, Cook Islands, Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Faroe Islands, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Gibraltar, Greenland, Guam, Hong Kong, Jersey, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Montenegro, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Oman, Palau, Serbia, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates, US Virgin Islands, Vanuatu. And four EU member states, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Malta

2.     Passive income such as royalties for Intellectual Property (IP), which companies are known to use to avoid tax. High levels of these payments far above normal economic activity indicates that the jurisdiction is facilitating tax avoidance.

Notes to editors:

·          Read the full Oxfam report: https://oxfam.box.com/v/EUBlacklistReport

·          An interactive map shows the 39 countries listed in the report and explains why they fail to meet the EU’s blacklisting criteria: https://public.tableau.com/profile/oxfam.eu.office#!/vizhome/ShadowEUtaxhavenblacklist_0/ShadowEUtaxhavenblacklist-map

·          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 the super-rich get away with billions in unpaid taxes. EU finance ministers are expected to publish the EU blacklist on 5 December at their meeting in Brussels.

·          The EU’s listing process uses three sets of criteria to identify tax havens: 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.

·          Last June the OECD released its own backlist, but the result was farcical and ended up naming only one country, Trinidad and Tobago.

·          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. $100 billion is enough money to provide an education for 124 million children and prevent the deaths of almost eight million mothers, babies and children a year.

·          Switzerland, which fails the EU’s criteria on fair taxation according to Oxfam’s analysis, has already declared they expect not to appear on the EU blacklist. This illustrates the risk that major tax havens might escape blacklisting due to political and economic pressure.

·          Following the Paradise Papers, 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 naming countries such as Ireland and the Netherlands that have been key players in the Paradise Papers scandal.