- The EU published its first “blacklist” of 17 tax havens on Tuesday, alongside a “greylist” of 47 jurisdictions.
- The EU is calling on countries with non-transparent tax regimes and structures solely designed to shield companies’ profits from tax to reform their systems.
- The EU failed to agree on any financial sanctions for blacklisted countries, prompting criticism from the EU’s tax commissioner and transparency campaigners.
LONDON – The EU published its first “blacklist” of tax havens on Tuesday, naming 17 countries including Barbados, Panama, and St Lucia.
The 17 blacklisted countries are:
- American Samoa
- South Korea
- The Marshall Islands
- St Lucia
- Trinidad & Tobago
- The United Arab Emirates.
It also published a “greylist” of 47 countries, which include the British Overseas Territories (OTs) and Crown Dependencies (CDs) of Jersey, Guernsey, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.
Countries were blacklisted if they were deemed to have failed to meet international standards on tax transparency and tax rates, and had not provided sufficient commitments that they would change in the months leading up to the list’s publication. Those on the greylist made promises to reform their tax structures, which include changes to ensure companies are not using 0% corporate tax rates to avoid paying tax on profits.
Although the blacklisted jurisdictions will not be eligible for EU funds, unless it is to aid development, member states failed to agree on any financial sanctions.
Pierre Moscovici, the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, said the list “represents substantial progress but it remains an insufficient response to the scale of tax evasion worldwide,” according to a report in the Guardian.
Moscovici reportedly said the countries on the greylist that had made commitments to change their tax laws must do so “as soon as possible,” and called on ministers “to agree quickly on dissuasive national sanctions.”
“We must do everything we can to keep up the pressure on all of these countries,” he said. “We must not accept unfair tax competition and opacity.”
‘A political fix’
The news comes soon after the Paradise Papers leak in November, which revealed the tax structures used by the world’s wealthy to avoid tax using offshore tax havens.
Commenting on the publication of the list, Alex Cobham, chief executive of Tax Justice Network, said in a statement that it was “hard to take seriously,” and that the EU had “missed a great opportunity to tackle the real issues lying behind the large-scale tax avoidance and tax evasion that is bleeding EU countries dry.”
He said the list looked like a “political fix” and that EU members had chosen “their least favourite countries to name and shame” – those that were “economically weak and politically unconnected.” He condemned the UK for trying to “frustrate” the blacklisting of OTs and CDs “at every turn.”
A Treasury spokesperson said: “Today’s publication marks an important step in our ongoing efforts to tackle tax avoidance and evasion internationally. This is clearly working, as over 40 jurisdictions have made significant commitments to reform as part of this process. For those that are on today’s list, we hope that this increased scrutiny and the potential for counter-measures will lead them to reconsider their approach.”
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