September 18, 2020

European banks book $27 billion profit in tax havens, Oxfam says


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By Stephen Morris From Bloomberg

20 lenders paid no tax on 383 million euros of profit in 2015
Subsidiaries in tax havens twice as profitable as elsewhere

Europe’s largest banks routed 25 billion euros ($27 billion) through tax havens in 2015, about a quarter of their profit, amid an international crackdown on corporate tax avoidance, according to a report by Oxfam International.

The 20 biggest lenders paid no tax on 383 million euros of profit posted in seven tax havens that year, while booking 4.9 billion euros of earnings in Luxembourg, more than the U.K., Sweden and combined, Oxfam and the Fair Finance Guide International said Monday. The study was based on data released under new regulations requiring banks to report earnings on a country-by-country basis.

Banks’ subsidiaries in low-tax jurisdictions are twice as profitable as offices elsewhere and employees are four times more productive, generating an average profit of 171,000 euros per person annually compared to 45,000 euros on average, according to the report.

Some of the world’s largest companies have been criticized for funneling profits through places such as the British territories of Bermuda and the , and Ireland, prompting promises of harsher measures from governments to ensure they collect more tax. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has released a plan aimed at limiting companies’ ability to get low rates in jurisdictions where they lack genuine economic activity, estimating profit-shifting costs governments as much as $240 billion a year in lost revenue.

“Governments must change the rules to prevent banks and other big businesses using tax havens to dodge taxes or help their clients dodge taxes,” , Oxfam’s senior tax justice advocacy officer. “New EU transparency rules give us a glimpse into the tax affairs of Europe’s biggest banks.”

At least 628 million euros of profit was reported by European banks in tax havens where they have no staff, Oxfam said. The organization cited as an example French bank BNP Paribas SA, which said it made 134 million euros of profit in 2015 in the Cayman Islands even though it had no employees there. Deutsche Bank AG, Germany’s largest bank, reported a loss in its home country and profits of 1.9 billion euros in tax havens, according to the report.

Banks came under scrutiny for helping their clients evade taxes after the 2016 leak of offshore financial records, known as the Panama Papers, which exposed billions of dollars in assets hidden in havens around the world. Seeking to contain the fallout from the scandal — which identified companies such as HSBC Holdings Plc and UBS Group AG — governments have vowed to crack down on tax evasion and money laundering to help regain public trust.

Oxford-based Oxfam is an international confederation of charities focused on the alleviation of global poverty.

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IMAGE: Oxfam logo

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