The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is outraged by the extent of top-level tax evasion and financial corruption revealed by the so-called Panama Papers.
More than 11 million leaked files from the database of secretive Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca show that some of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful people, including political leaders and celebrities, are evading tax and hiding their cash in shady offshore funds that also finance companies involved in money laundering, arms deals and drug trafficking.
“It is shameful that it has been left to journalists to identify these fraudsters, while the EU and national governments have been incapable of taking effective action to stop them” said Veronica Nilsson, ETUC Deputy General Secretary. “While the rich and powerful are fiddling the system, ordinary people are paying the price of austerity, rising costs and stagnant wages. The ETUC calls for tax justice and effective reforms to end evasion as a top priority.
“If there is one so-called structural reform that the European Commission should be pushing in order to achieve both healthy public finances and investment it is tax justice.”
The silence has been broken thanks to the work of journalists from more than 80 countries who have been analysing the documents. Twelve current or former heads of state are among 143 politicians, their families and associates – some of them European – accused of using offshore tax havens.
The ETUC is demanding:
- A European-wide tax investigation centre, EuroTax, to investigate tax evasion and avoidance by wealthy individuals, companies and criminals;
- A tax on financial transactions to be introduced in all Member States;
- Investment in national tax administrations and investigation services as an urgent structural reform;
- An obligation on multinational companies to publish full accounts in each country where they operate.
The European Parliament Research Service estimates that the European Union is losing about 70 billion euros of tax revenue each year as a consequence of tax avoidance practices, representing slightly more than 16% of public investment in the EU.