Luxury waterfront houses are seen in Bermuda

Luxury waterfront houses are seen in Bermuda on August 17, 2007.

(Photo: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Oxfam Calls Updated EU Tax Haven Blacklist Nothing But a 'Joke List'

"Zero- and low-tax-rate countries should be automatically blacklisted," said one tax expert. "E.U. countries should not get a free pass."

International anti-poverty organization Oxfam on Tuesday called an update to the European Union's list of tax havens a "joke," saying no inventory that excludes "countries with zero corporate tax rates" and countries within the E.U. can be taken seriously as a true accounting of the places used by the ultrawealthy to avoid taxes.

E.U. finance ministers unveiled their latest update of the so-called "blacklist" on Tuesday, announcing that countries including Bermuda and the Cayman Islands have been delisted, despite the fact that neither country requires residents to pay taxes and both have become favorite places for corporations to register and wealthy people in Europe and the U.S. to buy property and stash their assets in bank accounts.

Luxembourg, which allows hundreds of companies to pay an effective tax rate of less than 1%, was also left off the list as it has been in previous years—despite being "one of the most harmful tax havens in the world," according to Oxfam inequality and tax policy adviser Chiara Putaturo.

"The E.U.'s tax havens list continues to be a total whitewash," said Putaturo. "The update is yet another missed opportunity to put an end to tax havens and get billions back to bridge the gap between the superrich and ordinary people."

The list is ostensibly meant to name countries that the E.U. has identified as helping wealthy corporations and individuals to avoid paying taxes. Countries on the list are restricted from some E.U. funding and face administrative penalties from the bloc, while its companion "graylist" includes countries whose tax policies warrant further investigation but whose officials have committed to some reform.

Four countries were added to the blacklist on Tuesday: the British Virgin Islands, Costa Rica, the Marshall Islands, and the Russian Federation. Albania, Aruba, and Curacao were placed on the graylist and four countries—Barbados, Jamaica, North Macedonia, and Uruguay—were removed from the graylist.

The blacklist only includes two countries—the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands—that were identified by the Tax Justice Network in 2021 as the world's 20 worst corporate tax havens. That list also included E.U. member countries France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Oxfam's report Survival of the Richest, which was released in January, showed that worldwide, the richest 1% of households control 54% of all new wealth generated in the last decade, and nearly two-thirds of new wealth created since 2020—a trend which was partially made possible by tax havens, according to the group.

Meanwhile, food insecurity is on the rise in the U.S.; right-wing lawmakers are decimating public healthcare systems in the U.K. and Spain, sparking widespread protests; and demonstrations over the rising cost of groceries, fuel, and other necessities spread across the globe last year, with an estimated 12,500 protests in 150 countries.

"Tax havens helped billionaires to double their wealth in the last decade and contribute to corporations raking in enormous windfall profits," said Putaturo. "With this joke list, the E.U. continues to allow the super-rich and profitable to stash away their fortunes while ordinary people are battling with the cost-of-living crisis."

On social media, Putaturo noted that in 2020, the European Commission called for a reform of the criteria the E.U. finance ministers use to compile the tax havens blacklist.

"But the E.U. countries seem to love tax havens," Putaturo said, "so there has not been any progress."

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