Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

European Union headquarters

European Union flags fly outside the Berlaymont building, which houses the European Commission, in Brussels. (Photo: Thijs ter Haar/flickr/cc)

'Not a Blacklist' But a 'Whitewash': EU Slammed for Letting Tax Havens Off the Hook

"How can anyone give this list any credibility?" asked Oxfam's tax expert after the European Union removed infamous safe harbor Bermuda from a roster that also exempts E.U. members.

Brett Wilkins

The anti-poverty charity Oxfam on Tuesday denounced the European Union's updated list of tax havens, which one expert at the group called a "whitewash" for removing one of the world's most infamous offshore safe harbors while exempting offenders in Europe.

"The current list makes the E.U. a hypocrite as major tax havens in Europe like Malta and Luxembourg escape."

The E.U. list of "noncooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes"—first published in 2017 in an effort to address rampant tax evasion—now includes Anguilla, the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos.

American Samoa, Fiji, Guam, Palau, Panama, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Vanuatu remain on the list, while Bermuda was removed.

"How can anyone give this list any credibility? Bermuda is one of the world's worst tax havens with its zero corporate tax rate. Yet, the E.U. took it off the list after it made a few woolly promises to reform," said Oxfam E.U. tax expert Chiara Putaturo said in a statement.

"To add insult to injury, major European tax havens like Luxembourg are not on the list because all E.U. countries receive an automatic free pass," she added. "This is not a blacklist, it is a whitewash." 

As the Panama Papers, Pandora Papers, OpenLux, and other investigative reports revealed how capitalist enterprises and the global superrich use offshore havens to avoid taxation—often through the use of shell companies—the European Commission last year launched an initiative "to fight against the misuse of shell entities for improper tax purposes."

However, Oxfam and others denounced the initiative—which excluded financial service firms—as inadequate while E.U. proposals to crack down on evasion and fraud have faced formidable obstacles, including from European countries like Luxembourg, Malta, and Ireland that have been called tax havens. 

"Nothing has changed," said Putaturo, who argued that the E.U. "should automatically blacklist zero- and low-tax rate countries and hold European countries up to the same level of scrutiny as non-European countries."

Noting the "free pass" given to members of the 27-nation bloc, Putaturo said that "the current list makes the E.U. a hypocrite as major tax havens in Europe like Malta and Luxembourg escape the list while countries outside Europe like Eswatini and Botswana risk being blacklisted."

"Stronger criteria could stop the industrial levels of tax dodging by the world's richest and corporates," she added. "Governments and ordinary people are facing the cost-of-living crisis. Ending tax havens could provide the much-needed hundreds of billions in revenue as the world's superrich would have to pay their fair share."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Citing 'Unprecedented Crisis,' House Dems Push Biden to Protect Haitians From Deportation

Warning of "mortal danger," one advocacy group argues extending and redesignating Temporary Protected Status for Haitians "is a matter of life and death."

Jessica Corbett ·

Pentagon Fails Another Audit, Yet Congress Poised to Approve $847 Billion Budget

"This isn't using our taxpayer dollars wisely," said the National Priorities Project. "It's robbing programs that we need, like the discontinued child tax credit that cut child poverty by half."

Kenny Stancil ·

Experts Warn 'Doomsday Scenario' for Colorado River Basin Possible in 2023

"The problem with massive projects like Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam," said one climate journalist, "is they were engineered for a climate that no longer exists."

Julia Conley ·

Starbucks Violated Law and Must Bargain With Union in Seattle: NLRB

The coffee giant, which plans to appeal, "is continuing its aggressive anti-union campaign against workers by delaying, confusing, and flat-out refusing to bargain with them," said Starbucks Workers United.

Jessica Corbett ·

Three UK Universities Ban Fossil Fuel Industry Recruiters From Campus

"It is vital that our universities show with actions, not words, that they are taking the side of climate justice, and not of the industries driving us deeper into a climate crisis," said one campaigner.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo