$18.5 trillion being hidden in tax havens worldwide

For the second time this year, Oxfam has stepped into the political arena to slam the injustice of the richest people in the world owning, controlling and hoarding their wealth while more and more ordinary people are pushed into poverty worldwide.

The latest report from the international charity organisation, this time by their Irish affiliate, Oxfam Ireland, explains that at least 18.5 trillion(!) USD is being hidden in tax havens worldwide by the worlds richest people and corporations. Less than 1% of that amount is what a previous Oxfam International report said would be needed to eradicate poverty the world over.

The report goes on to ask; with such extreme levels of wealth being hoarded across the globe, how can national governments justify the austerity policies that have been pursued since the beginning of this crisis, and how can any promises on tackling global poverty be taken seriously while these tax cheats remain unchallenged?

Ireland a tax haven

What has come as a surprise to some in the past week has been the claim that Ireland itself functions as a tax haven for some of the most profitable companies in the world, including Google, Apple, and Facebook, who between them made €27 billion in profits in 2011 and with the aid of the Irish corporation tax system paid less than 0.33% in tax. Apple paid a scandalous 0.05%!

According to the Oxfam Ireland report, “as much as €707 billion owned by wealthy individuals from overseas may be shielded from tax authorities around the world in Irish financial institutions”.

With €707 billion being tucked away by the worlds richest people on Ireland’s shores, is must surely raise questions as to the validity of the Fine Gael / Labour government’s arguments of the need for Property Taxes, Water Charges, and public sector cuts.

According to Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland, “It’s time to take the side of ordinary people, rather than the privileged few. These figures put Ireland at the centre of a global tax system that is a colossal betrayal of people here and abroad. Now is the time to take action.”

Of course, this figure of 18.5 trillion USD is just the tip of the iceberg, as other methods of avoiding and evading tax, such as various legal loopholes, allow even more profits to go untaxed.

To think that the Government seeks to criminalise ordinary people who refuse to pay unjust austerity taxes, while allowing the super rich to avoid paying taxes at such levels is nothing short of disgusting.

I was genuinely shocked while reading the Oxfam Ireland report when I read the line calling for governments to “Commit to making ownership of companies and other assets public”, until I realised that they simply meant publicising the details who owns these massive fortunes. But in reality, the only way to end the extreme inequality bred by capitalism, combat the tax dodging billionaires, and bring an end to global poverty is to take the hoarded wealth of these people into democratic public ownership and use it for the benefit of all people.

While Oxfam Ireland and Oxfam International are to be commended for coming out strongly against this injustice, once again they seek to limit the role of ordinary people to that of lobbying politicians and the powers that be. The only way to fight against the extreme inequality inherent in the capitalist system is through the active participation of ordinary people in mass campaigns, such as the Campaign Against Home & Water Taxes, the trades unions, and the organised labour movement, behind a genuine democratic socialist programme.