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European Union 'tax haven' blacklist labelled a 'whitewash'

07 December 2017

The EU today blacklisted 17 tax havens in a move that could see the jurisdictions subjected to a raft of sanctions from member states.

"Given the unfortunate incorporation of the country in this discriminatory list, the Republic of Panama has made a decision to call its Ambassador to the European Union, Dario Chiru, to assess the steps to be followed moving forward", the government said in a statement.

The EU has named 17 countries - including South Korea, Mongolia, Namibia, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates - in its first ever tax haven blacklist and put a further 47 on notice, including British overseas territories and the crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, in an attempt to crack down on the estimated £506bn lost to tax avoidance every year.

The EU failed to agree on any financial sanctions for blacklisted countries, prompting criticism from the EU's tax commissioner and transparency campaigners.

The Council concluded that these countries are non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes because they did not meet Council criteria established in November 2016 and did not provide a sufficient commitment to meet these criteria in the future.

European authorities have urged nations to up their efforts in committing to greater tax transparency over the past year.

WIC News understands that the list will be updated regularly.

This second list includes Switzerland, Turkey and Hong Kong.

But some countries, including France, have said that listed jurisdictions should also face sanctions.

In the meantime, the threat of being blacklisted and sanctioned has spurred many countries to cooperate with the European Union, a sign that public shaming alone will have an impact, said European Union legislator Tom Vandenkendelaere of the EPP Christian Democrats.

These include increased monitoring of certain transactions and auditing, special documentation requirements and mandatory disclosure disclosure of tax schemes with respect to cross-border arrangements.

Some countries were not listed because they pledged to improve in the area of fair taxation. "We must not accept unfair tax competition and opacity".

"There's still a number of countries which entered into commitments as regard to good tax governance and we will be following up [on] those commitments", European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday ahead of the meeting.

The ECOFIN Council also provided some countermeasures to encourage countries placed on the blacklist of tax havens to change their behavior.

European Union 'tax haven' blacklist labelled a 'whitewash'