Joel Muckett 6 Dec 2017 02:45pm

EU reveals first tax haven blacklist

Seventeen countries have been named in the first European Union’s first tax haven blacklist, which was approved by EU finance ministers

Caption: By naming and shaming the non-compliant tax jurisdictions, the EU aims to increase good tax governance worldwide
South Korea and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were placed on the list, alongside Panama – which was at the heart of the ‘Panama Papers’ last year – and Caribbean nations such as Grenada and Saint Lucia.

Other nations included were American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Guam, Macao, the Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Samoa and Trinidad and Tobago.

South Korea was listed for its “harmful preferential tax regimes” while the UAE was featured for not applying the base erosion and profit shifting minimum standards.

By naming and shaming the non-compliant tax jurisdictions, the EU aimed to increase good tax governance worldwide, combat the use of tax schemes abroad and prevent large-scale tax abuse.

EU institutions are prohibited from using blacklisted countries for international financial operations, according to Reuters.

A second, “grey list” named 47 countries that had promised to make their tax policies compliant with EU standards. British overseas territories and crown dependencies, such as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, were featured on this, despite being involved in numerous tax avoidance schemes.

European tax commissioner Pierre Moscovici called the blacklist a “key victory for transparency and fairness”, but urged for more pressure to be put on listed countries to make them change their ways.

“Blacklisted jurisdictions must face consequences in the form of dissuasive sanctions, while those that have made commitments must follow up on them, quickly and credibly. […] No one must get a free pass,” he said.

The list has drawn criticism from many due to its exclusion of EU member states from the screening process and the lack of sanctions or financial penalties for those named.

MEP Sven Giegold criticised its omission of the “most important tax havens” and the exclusion of member states such as the Netherlands and Luxembourg, which do not comply with the EU’s criteria.

“If countries with a tax rate of zero do not appear on the blacklist, it is not worth the paper it is written on. Even worse, as long as the council cannot agree on common and automatic sanctions against listed tax havens, the blacklist will be toothless,” he added.

Oxfam was critical of the blacklist, calling the exclusion of “notorious” tax havens such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands “disturbing”.

“Although we recognise this is a step in the right direction, if EU leaders let too many tax havens off the hook, we’ll all lose out,” said Oxfam policy advisor on inequality and tax, Oli Pearce.

Last month, the Paradise Papers leak exposed the use of offshore tax havens by the world’s biggest businesses, political figures and celebrities, including Conservative party donor Lord Michael Ashcroft and Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton.

The Big Four were criticised for their part in the scandal, with politicians saying the firms facilitated and profited from tax avoidance schemes.