Blog

Oxfam launches appeal for €3 million/£2.6 million to urgently reach half a million people affected by deadly Indonesia earthquake and tsunami

 

Monday 1st October 2018

Oxfam and partners are scaling up their response to urgently reach 500,000 people after the Indonesian Government called for international support today and announced that more than 2.4 million people have been affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Sulawesi.

Oxfam has launched an emergency appeal for €3 million/£2.6 million to meet the immediate needs of those devastated by the disaster, with Oxfam Ireland urging the public here to donate to their Indonesia Earthquake and Tsunami Appeal to help reach the target as quickly as possible.

Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: “It’s a race against time to save lives. Oxfam is scaling up its response to reach 500,000 people with essential aid like shelter packs and ready-to-eat food as well as water purification kits and hygiene supplies to keep people safe and healthy.

“The scale of the damage from the earthquake and tsunami is huge. We’re expecting the death toll to rise significantly as local officials are now counting the bodies in local hospitals and places of worship, while media reports say that mass burials are taking place to prevent the spread of deadly disease.

“In order to reach 500,000 people and more, we’re urgently appealing to the public to be generous by donating at oxfamireland.org, or in any our local shops. Every single donation will go a long way to providing a vulnerable family with life-saving support. Thank you.”

To donate to Oxfam Ireland’s Indonesia Earthquake and Tsunami Appeal, visit https://www.oxfamireland.org/indonesia-earthquake

ENDS

Spokespeople are available in the region and in Ireland. For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson-Lyons, Oxfam Ireland: alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org or +353 (0) 83 198 1869

NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham, Oxfam Ireland: phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org or +44 (0) 7841 102535 

Oxfam ready to reach 100,000 people with lifesaving aid after Indonesia earthquake and tsunami

 

 

Sunday 30th September 2018

Oxfam plans to reach 100,000 people in Palu city and Donggala district in the coming days after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit towns on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday.

The aid agency and local partners will prioritise distributing ‘ready-to-eat’ meals, water, hygiene supplies and emergency shelter to those in need, while continuing to assess the devastating impact of this double disaster. Oxfam stands ready to deploy additional staff and resources to the area to support the Indonesian Government-led response. 

An estimated 1.5 million people could be affected by the earthquake and tsunami, in addition to the 830 confirmed fatalities. Initial reports suggest that at least 16,732 people were forced from their homes and are scattered across 23 sites, although this number is likely to rise. The main road linking the city of Palu to the rest of Central Sulawesi has been blocked by a landslide and the airport in Palu is operating at half capacity making access difficult.

Ancilla Bere, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Manager in Indonesia, said: “Access and communication remains a big concern with a key road cut off by a landslide and other infrastructure badly damaged. It is encouraging to hear that the Indonesian Armed Forces has mobilised military aircraft and helicopters to reach people in affected areas.”

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “The more information we receive, the more catastrophic the situation appears to be. We know that hundreds of thousands of people are in urgent need of life-saving aid – clean water and sanitation to stop the spread of deadly disease; food and shelter to provide some strength and comfort to those who have lost everything, now traumatised and afraid.

“We’re ready to respond and to scale-up our response as and when required. We’re appealing to the Irish public to stand with us at this crucial time by donating at oxfamireland.org and are so grateful to all those who already have.”

To donate to Oxfam Ireland’s Indonesia Earthquake and Tsunami Appeal, visit https://www.oxfamireland.org/indonesia-earthquake

ENDS

Spokespeople available here and in the region. For more information or to arrange an interview please contact: 

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson-Lyons, on +353 (0) 83 198 1869alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org

NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfam.org 

 

Oxfam prepares to respond to massive earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia

Saturday 29th September 2018                                                                      

Oxfam and its local partners in Indonesia are assessing damage after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit coastal towns in the country’s central island of Sulawesi yesterday (Friday).

Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: “All of our staff and partners in the town of Palu are safe and prepared to provide emergency aid to those affected.Our partners have been working closely with the National Disaster Management Agency and local authorities in the affected area to urgently assess the situation on the ground.”

Oxfam has previously established a Humanitarian Knowledge Hub in Indonesia which consists of 16 civil society organisations in the country, led by Jamari Sakato. Oxfam in Indonesia has been working to strengthen the capacity of this alliance as the local force in disaster risk management, and it responded to help people affected by the Lombok earthquake in July 2018.

ENDS

Spokespeople available from the region and in Ireland.

CONTACT: For interviews or more information, contact: Alice Dawson-Lyons, Oxfam Ireland: alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org or +353 (0) 83 198 1869

Where Do You Stand? – Oxfam explores key issues of our time in interactive drama for Culture Night

This Friday (September 21st) Oxfam Ireland will present simultaneous Culture Night events in both Belfast and Dublin, with an interactive theatre experience exploring some of the key issues of our time.
 
This thought-provoking event – entitled ‘Where Do You Stand?’ – invites the audience to consider their place in the world while hearing global stories of poverty, displacement, and conflict, influenced by Oxfam’s work around the globe.
 
Oxfam Ireland’s Content Officer Joanne O’Connor, who penned the drama specially for Culture Night, said: “The play is based on two powerful first-person stories from inspiring women we work with from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda – women who have suffered unimaginable tragedy but overcame to help others survive and even thrive. 
 
“The fictionalised versions of their stories will be told in familiar accents against an Irish landscape to help bring home the faraway stories we hear again and again in the news – accompanied by images and stories from our own work around the world.
 
“The audience will certainly feel a strong connection with the drama through an empathy with the characters and their situations. The universal themes of family, separation, loss and hopes for a brighter future will touch a nerve and resonate with people here.” 
 
The drama consists of two separate monologues, each lasting approximately 10 minutes, with performances repeated at intervals through the evening. 
 
Actors Amilia Stewart (in Dublin) and Eileen McCloskey (in Belfast) play the role of Rita, a former midwife who fled the violence in her home country when the war intensified and is now an Oxfam-assisted hygiene worker educating a refugee community on the importance of good sanitation. The role of Flonira – who was widowed during the conflict, and used funds earned from an Oxfam-supported cooperative to help pay for her son’s college studies – is played in Dublin by Ciara O'Callaghan and in Belfast by Cathy Brennan-Bradley. 
 
Left to Right: Cathy Brennan Bradley, Eileen McCloskey, Ciara O'Callaghan, Amilia Stewart
 
Admission is free and the events will take place at Atlas Language School, Portabello House, Portabello, Dublin 2, from 7 – 10pm; and at the Oxfam Books shop in 35 Ann Street, Belfast BT1 4EB from 5pm – 9.30pm.
 
For more details about Culture Night, visit www.culturenight.ie and www.culturenightbelfast.com 
 
ENDS
 
NOTES TO EDITORS
 
Oxfam has spokespeople available for interview. For more information or to arrange an interview please contact: 
 
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson-Lyons, on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org
 
NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfam.org 
Posted In:

Hard to Swallow: How Ireland could do more to tackle corporate tax avoidance

Photo caption: Oanh (27) is a dialysis patient who lives in Hanoi, Vietnam. Oanh had to leave her family home in rural Me Linh District to move to the city for the hospital treatment she needs three times a week. She can’t afford a kidney transplant and has campaigned with other dialysis patients for an increase in health cover. Photo: Adam Patterson/Oxfam

This week Oxfam Ireland released a new report entitled ‘Hard to Swallow: Facilitating tax avoidance by Big Pharma in Ireland’ which indicates that Ireland’s corporate tax rules are allowing four of the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms – Abbott, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co (MSD) and Pfizer – to avoid large amounts of tax by shifting profits to and through Ireland.

Based on available data, Oxfam found that Abbott paid zero tax on profits of €1.2 billion declared in Ireland in 2015, costing the Irish taxpayer an estimated €155 million that year alone. Johnson & Johnson recorded profits of €4.31 billion in Ireland in 2015 but only paid an effective tax rate of six percent, €250 million less than they should have paid at Ireland’s corporate tax rate of 12.5%. Added to the Abbott figure, that means just two of the four companies avoided €405 million in tax in just one year.

It is estimated that these four pharma giants have avoided paying annual taxes of €96.6/$112 million across the seven developing countries investigated in the report, a move which impacts on the delivery of essential services that can help end poverty and inequality.

Tax avoidance is not a victimless crime

Oxfam’s research demonstrates that corporate tax avoidance continues to drive inequality and hamper the fight against poverty. It reduces the funds available to poorer countries to invest in public services that enable communities to lift themselves out of poverty. This is particularly the case for girls and women, who make up the majority of people living in poverty – and who are more likely to rely on public services.

This is not a new phenomenon. Developing countries are estimated to lose around US$100 billion annually through corporate tax avoidance, which deprives them of vital funds for hospitals, schools and other essential services. For example, in 2017, 1,317 children died at a hospital in Gorakhpur in India. A leading cause of death there is acute encephalitis syndrome, a mosquito-borne disease that can be easily prevented with proper sanitation and hygiene, but not easily cured. According to the former Health Secretary of India, 95% of the deaths could have been prevented if India had a functioning health system.

Had the Indian government received the estimated €63.8 million the four US drug companies may have underpaid in taxes annually, it could have allocated these funds to fighting encephalitis and still have had enough money left to buy Japanese encephalitis vaccines and bed nets for every child born each year in the whole of India.

Ireland’s tax code has already been implicated in facilitating some of this revenue loss - in 2017 Google was ordered to pay taxes on €194 million of profit to the Indian government which were found to have been illegally booked in Ireland.

Last week the Financial Times reported that nine out of 10 Fortune 500 companies are being investigated for tax avoidance related to $23 billion of revenue. It is not unreasonable to suspect that Ireland’s corporate tax regime is involved in some of these cases.

More tax transparency needed

Ireland has received one of the highest international ratings on tax transparency from the OECD. However, what is termed ‘tax transparency’ by the OECD and the Irish Government refers to information exchanges between tax authorities. None of this information is published or made available to legislators, investors, journalists and civil society actors. ‘Tax transparency’ is the only form of transparency that doesn’t allow public access to information. 

In 2017 the European Parliament agreed a proposal for public country-by-country reporting, which would require multinational companies (MNCs) to disclose where they generate profit and where they pay tax. However, the Irish Government has not been supportive of this proposal despite an endorsement by Brian Hayes MEP who said:

“The measures agreed by the Parliament represent a major step forward for tax transparency. Europe is leading on this issue alone. Country-by-country reporting is coming whether multinationals like it or not and I believe tax information for large companies should be made public as long as it is fair and is in the public interestFine Gael is in favour of corporate tax transparency.”

The current lack of transparency impedes attempts to understand how countries’ tax regimes operate. Because the companies in the Hard to Swallow report reveal little about their subsidiaries’ finances, attempts to quantify their tax avoidance barely scratch the surface. We limited our inquiry to countries where we could find a critical mass of data, and for those countries we located data for just 358 out of 687 subsidiaries – 56 in seven developing countries, 218 in eight advanced economies, and 84 in low tax jurisdictions like Ireland. Oxfam cannot prove that the companies are engaged in profit shifting or tax avoidance – this would require access to the companies’ tax returns. However, increasing transparency, such as through public country-by-country reporting would provide relevant actors, especially in developing countries, with data to help review and, if necessary, reform aspects of the tax system being used purely for tax avoidance.

Ireland’s Corporate Tax Roadmap

Earlier this month the Department of Finance released ‘Ireland’s Corporate Tax Roadmap’ which outlines the existing and future measures the Irish Government plans to take to address corporate tax avoidance. While it will tackle some mechanisms used, it does not go far enough to address all of the tax dodging mechanisms employed by multinationals, including big pharma companies. Most worryingly, the plan contains few, if any, mechanisms to address corporate tax avoidance that impacts developing countries.

Oxfam’s Hard to Swallow report adds to the growing body of research that indicates that Ireland is still one of the world’s biggest conduits for tax avoidance. Berkeley academic Gabriel Zucman’s most recent research indicates that Ireland facilitates the largest level of profit-shifting by US MNCs.  

The Hard to Swallow report also corresponds with the EU’s recent assessment of Ireland’s economy as part of the EU’s Semester Review, which stated that “some indicators suggest that Ireland's corporate tax rules are used in aggressive tax planning structures”. This review found that royalties sent from Ireland were equivalent to 26 percent of Ireland’s GDP in 2015 – more royalties than were sent out of the rest of the EU combined, making Ireland the world’s top royalties’ provider. High levels of these payments’ economic activity indicate that the jurisdiction is facilitating tax avoidance.

Despite this evidence, the Irish Government continues to claim that Ireland’s corporate tax regime doesn’t harm developing countries. It bases this claim on the findings from a spillover analysis undertaken in 2015 which concluded that “the Irish tax system on its own can hardly lead to significant loss of tax revenue in developing countries”. One of the arguments for this is that the amount of financial flows from Ireland to developing countries is low.

However, this spillover analysis only looked at limited data, focusing on 13 countries over two years. This meant that only 4 percent of the available data on Irish overseas investment into developing countries – from 2009 to 2012 – was examined. It also didn’t look at indirect flows through third countries like Luxembourg or Bermuda. Moreover, not all the limited data analysed could be assessed due to secrecy laws. The analysis noted this flaw saying that “a substantial percentage of [foreign direct investment] is labelled “confidential (…)” or “unspecified (…)” and this may in part go to developing countries”. Finally, the analysis ignored assessments of capital gains related to the sale of cross-border investments. Instead it focussed on the taxation of income from cross-border investments and services in contrast to the IMF’s Fiscal Spillover Reports.

At the end of 2017, Christian Aid Ireland published two reports entitled Global Linkages and Impossible Structures critiquing the Irish spillover analysis and highlighting the many mechanisms still available under Irish tax law that facilitate corporate tax avoidance. 

Changes to be implemented before the end of 2018

So, what new mechanisms are outlined in Ireland’s Corporate Tax Roadmap to address corporate tax avoidance? Firstly, all of the items outlined in the roadmap are either compulsory under EU law (as per the Anti -Tax Avoidance Directive or ATAD) or have already been signed up to by Ireland. The details in the plan concern how and when Ireland will be implementing these existing commitments. Unfortunately, Ireland has chosen to implement the least effective of these tax avoidance mechanisms at the latest available date. Most worryingly, these proposals include little or no mechanisms to address corporate tax avoidance that negatively impacts developing countries.

Most of the plan will not be implemented immediately, with some items not due to come into force for five years; however, three items are planned to be introduced before the end of 2018.

The first is the ratification of the OECD’s Multi-Lateral Instrument (MLI) by the Dáil by the end of this month. The MLI is an attempt to provide common minimum standards for all existing and future Double Tax Agreements (DTA). A DTA is legal agreement between countries to determine the cross-border tax regulation and means of cooperation between the two jurisdictions. DTAs often revolve around which jurisdiction has the right to tax cross-border activities and at what rate.

The minimum standards set out in the MLI have been designed to close tax avoidance loopholes. Article 12 of the MLI relates to defining when an MNC has a taxable presence or permanent establishment (PE) in a jurisdiction. This article makes it harder for multinational companies to claim that they don’t have a permanent establishment/taxable presence in a third country if they use a third party to conclude contracts on the company’s behalf, an approach that can be used as a tax avoidance strategy. When Ireland signed the MLI in June 2017 it chose not to adopt Article 12, missing the opportunity to close this loophole. 

In its submission to the consultation process that informed Ireland’s Corporate Tax Roadmap, Oxfam recommended that Ireland should adopt article 12 of the MLI when it ratifies the MLI later this year. No reference or discussion of this is included in Ireland’s Corporate Tax Roadmap, despite the Minister of Finance’s commitment to review this issue following news reports about the continuance of this loophole.

The second item Ireland proposes to introduce are controlled foreign corporations (CFC) rules, which, if designed appropriately, can make it less attractive for a company to shift profits to avoid tax. CFC rules can also discourage shifting profits from subsidiaries in developing countries to tax havens for EU-headquartered companies. Ireland has chosen to implement a form of CFC rules that will do little to address corporate tax avoidance. They will assess whether artificial arrangements (arrangements set up for mere tax purposes and not in line with the economic reality) are being used to avoid paying tax – something that Ireland is already supposed to be doing under its current transfer pricing legislation. The problem with this is that although it looks at artificial arrangements, it is very hard for Revenue Authorities to prove whether a structure is artificial or not.

The final change that should be implemented before the end of 2018 relates to updating Ireland’s domestic transfer pricing legislation, especially related to non-trading income, including capital transactions. Although these changes are welcome, Oxfam does not feel that addressing profit-shifting out of Ireland alone is enough to truly tackle corporate tax avoidance. Oxfam has asked that ‘two-way’ transfer pricing legislation is needed to give Irish Revenue officials the power to investigate instances where profits are shifted from a high tax jurisdiction to Ireland, to avail of its low corporate income tax rate. This would allow officials to identify potential abuses which could lead to revenue losses in other countries, especially developing countries.  

The ‘Coffey Review stated that there are adequate measures in place to address this issue. The review asserted that if transfer mispricing occurs, a foreign tax authority may adjust the transfer prices charged or taken by a foreign affiliate resident in their territory and attribute a higher quantum of taxable profit to the affiliate. If the Irish Revenue agrees with this assessment, an adjustment can be made under protocols set out in relevant Double Taxation Agreements. However, not all tax authorities of developing countries have the capacity to undertake such audits and identify sophisticated tax avoidance strategies. The Coffey Review also asserted that there is a danger of double non-taxation if the other jurisdiction decides not to exercise its taxing rights. This concern can be easily addressed by inserting a protection clause in new legislation to ensure that a reduction in taxable income in Ireland will only happen when Revenue is satisfied that the income will be assessable in another jurisdiction.

There should be more consideration in Ireland’s Corporate Tax Roadmap of the more comprehensive mechanisms needed to address corporate tax avoidance in a digitalised and global economy. These mechanisms include taxing companies on their global profits and then apportioning tax revenue according to value creation and economic activity, the development of a global minimum effective tax rate and the implementation of public country-by-country reporting. Although the Irish Government recognises that additional reforms are required to take account of the highly digitalised global economy “to ensure that tax is paid by companies where value is actually created”, it does not support any role for developing countries in this process.

What Ireland needs to do

Besides draining money from essential services, tax dodging also negatively impacts the poor because it requires governments to raise a greater proportion of their revenue from other sources. Most developing countries raise two thirds or more of their tax revenue through consumption taxes, which eat up a larger proportion of income, the poorer you are.

Ireland has a well-earned reputation of acting fairly and being a champion of the rights of poorer countries. To ensure this reputation is maintained, it needs to do more to address corporate tax avoidance that impacts the world’s poorest people.

Ireland is calling on the Irish government to:

  • Support efforts at EU level to agree meaningful legislation on public Country by Country Reporting
  • Advocate at relevant global forums for a consensus to be reached on a global minimum effective tax rate
  • Address profit-shifting, including signing up to Article 12 of the OECD’S Multilateral Instrument.
  • Review and reform Ireland’s Double Taxation Treaties
  • Strengthen Ireland’s existing Exit Tax regime and subject all new tax incentives to rigorous economic and risk assessments
  • Contribute to a second generation of international tax reforms to address the use of highly mobile value, including IP and other intangible assets.
  • Ensure that developing countries participate in all discussion concerning corporate tax reform on an equal basis

Pages