French Word of the Day: Paradis fiscal

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
French Word of the Day: Paradis fiscal
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

This French word might sound idyllic, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.


Why do I need to know paradis fiscal?

Because this French phrase sounds like a lovely tropical location to hangout and sip a strawberry daiquiri, but the real meaning is a bit more sinister. 

What does it mean?

Paradis fiscal - roughly pronounced pair-ah-dee fees-kal - is the French term for a ‘tax haven’.

While some people - probably multimillionaires and billionaires - might enjoy relaxing in a paradis fiscal, for others the designation is not so heavenly after all.


Officially, a paradis fiscal is a country or territory with little to no taxation or fiscal regulation.  

Like ‘tax haven’ in English, the French term is used pejoratively, as well as in an official sense by the OECD or other international organisations to designate certain regimes.

For example, the European Union has its ‘tax haven black list’ (liste noire européenne des paradis fiscaux) , but the more official terminology would be the ‘EU list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions’ (liste de l'UE des pays et territoires non coopératifs à des fins fiscales).

In France, you might see some placards decrying paradis fiscaux during protests about taxation or corporate profits - and protesters often riff on the theme by dressing up in holiday outfits of drawing pictures of tropical islands, as in the protest below where Oxfam campaigners take their suitcases full of money on a 'holiday' to a tax haven.

Oxfam campaigners take part in a symbolic action against tax evasion, on March 27, 2017 in Paris. Photo by PATRICK KOVARIK / AFP

Use it like this

Il a transféré son entreprise dans un paradis fiscal pour gagner rapidement beaucoup d'argent. - He moved his company to a tax haven to build up a lot of money quickly.

Le grand public n'a probablement pas les moyens de vivre dans un paradis fiscal. Ils sont destinés aux ultra-riches. - The average person probably can't afford to live in a tax haven. They're meant for the ultra-rich.


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