European Council names 17 countries as ‘tax havens’

6 Dec 17

The European Council has published its ‘blacklist’ of 17 countries classified as tax havens, which could lose access to funds from the bloc.

The list, which was judged on the countries’ tax transparency, fair taxation and anti-BEPS measures, was decided at a meeting of finance ministers in Brussels with the aim to combat tax avoidance and evasion.

South Korea, Mongolia, Namibia, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates are among the 17 countries named and shamed on the bloc’s first ever tax blacklist.

The EU said these countries had failed to show sufficient commitments that they would change their tax ways.

Toomas Tõniste, minister for finance of Estonia, which currently holds the Council presidency, said: “This initiative is already proving its value, as numerous countries have worked to meet the deadline for making commitments on the basis of our criteria.

“But it is also important that we closely monitor the implementation of commitments made by our partners around the world.”

A further 47 states have been put on a “grey” list of countries that are not compliant with EU standards but have promised reforms to avoid being labelled as a tax haven.

Countries on the blacklist could lose access to EU funds, while other countermeasures are yet to be decided in the coming weeks.

But the EU has been criticised for not including member states on the list, a number of which did meet the tax haven criteria set out by the council.

Oxfam’s policy advisor Oli Pearce said EU leaders let too many tax havens “off the hook” and as a result there is less money available for healthcare, education and poverty reduction.

He said: “It is disturbing to see mostly small countries on the EU blacklist, while most notorious tax havens – UK-linked places like Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Jersey and the Virgin Islands – escape with a place on the grey list.”

The European Network on Debt and Development’s tax coordinator Tove Maria Ryding also said in response to the published blacklist: “If EU governments really wanted to get rid of tax havens, they should be open about the fact that several EU Member States, such as Luxembourg, Ireland and the Netherlands, also have to fundamentally change their behaviour.

“Unless we put a stop to all tax havens, the problem is just going to move from one place to the other.”

The full list of countries the European Council considered ‘non-compliant jurisdictions’ were:

  • American Samoa
  • Bahrain
  • Barbados
  • Grenada
  • Guam
  • South Korea
  • Macau
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mongolia
  • Namibia
  • Palau
  • Panama
  • St Lucia
  • Samoa
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • Tunisia
  • United Arab Emirates

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