Oxfam says Ireland is a tax haven judged by EU criteria

'Blacklist or Whitewash' report comes ahead of Ecofin publication of tax haven blacklist

Ireland is one of four EU states that would be blacklisted as a tax haven if the EU applied its own criteria to member states, the charity Oxfam has said.

EU finance ministers are expected to publish a tax haven blacklist at their Ecofin meeting on December 5th.

In a report entitled “Blacklist or Whitewash”, Oxfam says that, even on a conservative assessment , the blacklist should include at least 35 countries – including Switzerland, Singapore, Hong Kong and United Arab Emirates, alongside more familiar names including the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas and Bermuda.

It argues that four EU states belong on the list for “enabling some of the biggest corporations in the world to pay minimal tax”. Alongside Ireland, these are the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Malta, which recently came into focus in a separate report by Christian Aid as a possible destination of choice for a new tax avoidance structure involving Ireland, called the Single Malt.


The anti-poverty action group says that, for the first time, it has measured countries against the criteria being used by the EU in its assessment of tax havens. These fall under three headings: transparency, fair taxation and participation in international fora on tax.

Fair taxation

The study included the 92 countries examined by the EU and the 28 EU states. Ireland, it says, fails to meet the criterion on fair taxation.

As an example, the report says that royalties (such as royalties for intellectual property), sent out of Ireland in 2015 were equivalent to 26 per cent of the State’s gross domestic product.

“That is more royalties than are sent out of the rest of the EU combined, and makes Ireland the world’s number one royalties provider,” the report states.

This is not the first time that Oxfam has accused Ireland of being a tax haven. A 2016 report named Ireland among the 15 “most aggressive corporate tax havens”.

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle is Deputy Business Editor of The Irish Times