Skip to main content

A report that opens doors

Tax Policy and Programme Manager Hannah Brejnholt Tranberg debating “who should pay taxes?” at Folkemødet 2018

Having done an analysis showing that the tax treaty between Denmark and Ghana could undermine Danish development policies, our team in Denmark developed a framework for analysing “spillovers.”

Tax spillovers are the (generally unintended) indirect impact that one country’s tax policy has on other country and its tax collection.

The framework helps to assess how or to what extent tax rules and practices in one country affect tax revenues in other countries. It’s a tool for European governments looking to know more about how their tax policies and treaties might impact developing countries, in line with the European Union commitment to “Policy Coherence for Development”.

But it turned out to be more than that. Today, it forms the basis of much of the national and international advocacy on tax that we are doing in Denmark.

In 2017 we published “Stemming the spills: Guiding Framework for National Tax Spillover Analysis”. We included recommendations as to how spillover analysis should be conducted, identifying which policy areas to keep in mind and who to include in the process.

The report has been shared with politicians, public servants, and other organisations working with tax justice. Around 200 prints of the report have been distributed at meetings and conferences in Brussels and other places. Our engagements following the launch of the report also included a meeting with the Danish Ministry of Taxation and several presentations both in Denmark and in EU institutions.

Making change

ActionAid has pushed the issue of tax treaties between poor and rich countries onto the global tax reform agenda, and the report played a big role in making this happen. In terms of advocacy, in Denmark we experienced the report as a door opener. Having a well-written report to support our arguments was a great advantage when doing presentations and holding discussions with various stakeholders.

At the European Commission’s Platform on Tax and Good Governance, the chairperson proposed developing a toolbox that could be used by EU member states when aiming for a more balanced approach on tax treaties with developing countries. We found ourselves to be able to exert substantial influence on the process, with a particular focus on how to ensure fair treatment of developing countries in bilateral tax treaties. ActionAid’s contribution is evident in the toolbox as it stands today.

We’re proud to say that the report and our advocacy work laid the foundation for discussions about the impact of EU Member States’ tax policies. The report was presented at the European Development Days, at the Addis Tax Initiative, at the European Parliament and several conferences in Denmark.

And it’s not just the ActionAid team in Denmark using the report; in addition to teams in the Netherlands and the UK, the report is also being used by partner organisations outside the ActionAid federation. It continues to be a great tool for advocating the significance of spillover analyses in ensuring fair tax policies and treaties.


The report was produced thanks to financial support from DANIDA.

Exclamation mark

ActionAid in Brussels ActionAid's office in Brussels is seeking to ensure that European Union (EU) domestic and external policies contribute to human rights and sustainable development in the Global South. We currently engage around EU domestic and external policies on: Private sector’s role in EU development policy and responsible business conduct Tax justice and inequality Agroecology and land rights  Rules for the financial sector You can see our latest work with the European Union here, including this joint statement on the COVID-19 crisis which accompanies a set of recommendations from NGOs in February 2020 on Making the European Green Deal work for International Partnerships. As NGOs working on climate, environment, social justice and sustainable development issues, we stand in solidarity with local communities, vulnerable groups and those on the frontlines of the pandemic in partner countries. Solidarity, transparency, inclusiveness, and equity must guide the EU’s response at all stages. In the short term, the priority with partner countries must be to address the health crisis, immediate humanitarian and socioeconomic impacts on livelihoods, and the right to food. The EU should free up maximal emergency and concessional finance that doesn’t exacerbate existing debt vulnerabilities, in the form of budget support and direct transfers to national response plans, support measures to tackle liquidity pressures, and debt relief. In the medium to long term, an economic crisis in the Global South could push hundreds of millions more into poverty. The EU should ensure support to recovery in partner countries integrates climate and biodiversity objectives with the Sustainable Development Goals, tackles social inequalities, strengthens access to natural resources, and supports public services. Some of our relevant publications include: Our recent open letter, signed by several civil society organisations, calling for a Europe that cares for all. This letter calling for an end to gag lawsuits in Europe - protecting democracy and fundamental rights, signed by 119 organisations. This paper on making the European Green Deal work for international partnerships A call for Less and better meat, dairy and eggs in the Farm to Fork Strategy and a letter to the European Commission on the Farm to Fork strategy to achieve sustainable food systems A call for EU human rights and environmental due diligence legislation An ActionAid & Global Witness briefing on investors and sustainability Collect more – and more fairly? A briefing paper about the European Commission’s support for Domestic Resource Mobilisation in developing countries A call for action to ensure strong regulation of the financial sector to avoid environmental, social and governance risks A briefing paper about removing barriers to access of justice for victims of business-related human rights violations A framework for analysing "tax spillovers" A report called Stemming the Spills which provides a guiding framework for national tax spillover analyses A report showing that the US and EU owe more than half the cost of repairing future damage caused by climate disasters Analysis of the EFSD Investment Window on Sustainable and Inclusive Cities NGO recommendations on Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Entrepreneurs and Agribusiness Investment Window A demand that the EU stops stalling on a treaty to ensure that businesses respect human rights A report on NGO recommendations for the EU Sustainable Finance Action Plan Joint CSO Recommendations on the European External Investment Plan A paper on the role of the EU in ensuring global tax justice An analysis of pitfalls and potentials of the role of bioenergy in the EU climate and energy policy post 2020 A mid-term review of the Capital Markets Union (CMU) Our work is co-funded by the European Union. These contents are the sole responsibility of ActionAid and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.