More than 12 trillion dollars have been stashed
away in European Union tax havens, the anti-poverty organization
Oxfam said Wednesday in a new research paper released hours before EU
leaders were set to take up the fight against tax evasion.
The hidden money amounts to about two-thirds of global offshore wealth and is responsible for the loss of more than 100 billion dollars in uncollected taxes worldwide, the organization said.
"European leaders have absolutely no excuse not to act when you see what proportion of this money is stashed right under their noses," said Natalia Alonso, head of Oxfam's EU office.
"Most governments claim to have no alternative but to cut public spending and development aid, but we've found there's enough potential tax to be had on hidden 'private' money to end extreme world poverty twice over," she added.
Oxfam called on the 27 EU leaders to establish a black list of and "clear countermeasures" against tax havens. The European Parliament on Tuesday urged the leaders to halve the EU's estimated 1 trillion euros (1.3 trillion dollars) in uncollected taxes by 2020.
But a draft of the leaders' conclusions seen by dpa only calls for more action on VAT fraud, money-laundering and the taxation of the digital economy; strengthened guidelines for business taxation; and more information-sharing between tax authorities, including the adoption of controversial EU reforms "before the end of the year."
While the leaders may not deliver hard-hitting measures, diplomats argued that their Brussels summit will contribute to the "global momentum" against tax evasion and convey a united European position ahead of discussions at a Group of 8 summit in June.
The fight against tax evasion has become a new global rallying cry, following a media expose on the widespread use of tax havens, scandals involving high-profile people in France and Germany, and allegations that large companies actively work to avoid paying taxes.
"In times of tight budgetary constraints, combating tax fraud and tax evasion is more than an issue of tax fairness - it becomes essential for the political and social acceptability of fiscal consolidation," EU leaders will say, according to the draft.
Also on Wednesday, the leaders will discuss how energy policies can contribute to reinvigorating growth in the EU, with a focus for the first time on energy prices. Bringing them in line with other parts of the world is seen as key to appeal to manufacturers.
Close attention will also be paid to anything the leaders say on fracking, the controversial shale-gas exploration technique behind a US energy boom. While the potential is not as great in Europe, Britain and Poland are among those considering its use.
The draft conclusions task the European Commission with assessing "a more systematic recourse to indigenous sources of energy" such as shale gas. The choice of which energy to exploit is, however, up to individual EU countries.
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