Tax abuse by OECD countries denies fundamental human rights to millions


Tax abuse by OECD countries denies fundamental human rights to millions

Every year 17 million more people could benefit from clean water and 34 million from basic sanitation, if revenue losses due to global tax abuse were reversed. These are fundamental human rights and are essential for survival. Over a ten-year period, these gains would be associated with the reversal of 600,000 child deaths and 73,000 maternal deaths.

Yet members of the OECD, a club of rich countries determining global rules on international tax, create the conditions which facilitate the majority of tax abuse.

The new report, Tax Justice & Human Rights: The 4 Rs and the realisation of rights Tax Justice & Human Rights: The 4 Rs and the realisation of rights, from the Tax Justice Network, with contributions from academics at the Universities of Leicester and St Andrews in the UK and presented at the Tax Justice Network’s annual conference today, models the impact that the $427 billion lost globally could have if it went to governments rather than tax havens. Importantly, the report does not assume that governments would suddenly divert the additional revenue towards a specific sector. – Instead, the report assesses the result of additional revenue simply being spent as it is currently, to provide a better reflection of what would happen in practise.

Recent research by the Tax Justice Network revealed that OECD countries and their dependencies facilitate 68 per cent of global tax abuse by multinational corporations and 92 per cent of global private tax evasion by wealthy individuals every year. Altogether, 78 per cent of the world’s global tax abuse is facilitated by members of the OECD, the world’s dominant rule-setter on international tax for the past 60 years.

When governments have more revenue, studies show they spend more on public services. Therefore,  countries which facilitate tax abuse  deprive governments of revenue, (especially critical in lower income-countries) for public services and the provision of human rights.

Dr. Dereje Alemayehu, executive director of the Global Alliance for Tax Justice likened the OECD to “a pack of wolves building a fence around a chicken coop” last year when OECD countries and their dependencies dominated the six top spots on the Tax Justice Network’s Corporate Tax Haven Index 2021, a ranking of countries most complicit in helping multinational corporations underpay tax.[1] The Tax Justice Network argues that today’s report further validates widespread mistrust in the OECD’s window-dressing proposals for tackling rampant global tax abuse and emphasises the need to improve rule-making on international tax to the UN. ICRICT similarly expressed the view on the proposals: “This agreement only serves the interests of a handful of countries, the richest.” [2]

Liz Nelson, director of tax Justice and human rights at the Tax Justice Network, said:

“They say only death and taxes are certain. But what’s clear from our report is that the deliberately engineered uncertainty of tax is directly responsible for a great many deaths. For the past sixty years, rich OECD countries have set international tax rules for the rest of the world, claiming they have everybody’s best interest at heart. Last year, we exposed OECD countries’ shameless hypocrisy by revealing that they facilitate over three-quarters of the global tax abuse that deprives countries of $427 billion in tax ever year. Today, we’re highlighting the human cost of that hypocrisy: global tax abuse facilitated by OECD countries deprives millions of people of their right to clean water, sanitation and education and leads to the deaths of thousands of mothers and children.

“Now we’ve seen the OECD force through a global minimum corporate tax rate which is a powerful step against profit shifting – but shockingly, gives the resulting revenues overwhelming to OECD member states, at the expense of lower-income countries that lose the greatest share of tax revenues to corporate tax abuse.

Writing in the foreword of the report, Irene Ovonji-Odida of the High-Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda (FACTI Panel) said:

“The crucial first step to challenging this is to follow the FACTI panel recommendation to begin negotiations on a UN Tax Convention, to set minimum standards for transparency and cooperation that benefit countries at all income levels, and to establish a globally inclusive, intergovernmental body under UN auspices to set international tax rules in the future – fairly and with legitimacy.”

Bernadette O’Hare, a paediatrician and senior lecturer in global health at the at the University of St Andrews, said:

“Large parts of the global population do not have access to basic water and sanitation and the World Health Organisation has said that scaling these up is a priority to protect people from the impacts of climate change. When the policies of OECD countries and their dependencies facilitate tax abuse, they deprive governments of revenue and millions of the rights needed for survival. They are depriving one hundred children of their right to life, every day.”

Professor Stephen Hall, Professor of Economics at The University of Leicester School of Business, added

“It is fundamental human rights which are at stake when we talk about global tax reform. It’s time all governments start using tax policies to protect people’s human rights and well-being instead of placating the desires of billionaires and corporate giants.”

The report will be presented today at the Tax Justice Network’s annual conference, the theme of which this year is human rights and tax justice. Speakers include Dr Dorothy Brown, Professor of Law and author of ‘The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans’, Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Hon. Irene Ovonji-Odida, panellist for the UN High Level Panel on Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity, and Andres Arauz, economist and presidential candidate in Ecuador.


Contact the press team: media [@] taxjustice [.] net

Notes to editor:

[1] Mark Bou Monsour, Tax haven ranking shows countries setting global tax rules do most to help firms bend them (2021). 

[2]  ICRICT, “G20/OECD Inclusive Framework tax deal: a missed opportunity.” (2021).

About the Tax Justice Network

The Tax Justice Network believes our tax and financial systems are our most powerful tools for creating a just society that gives equal weight to the needs of everyone. But under pressure from corporate giants and the super-rich, our governments have programmed these systems to prioritise the wealthiest over everybody else, wiring financial secrecy and tax havens into the core of our global economy. This fuels inequality, fosters corruption and undermines democracy. We work to repair these injustices by inspiring and equipping people and governments to reprogramme their tax and financial systems.