Grenada and St Lucia named on European Union 'tax haven' blacklist

Pierre Moscovici European tax commissioner speaks with press prior to an EU finance ministers meeting in Brussels on 4 December 2017

EU creates blacklist of 17 'tax haven' countries

However, Pierre Moscovici, the European Union commissioner for economic and financial affairs, taxation and customs, noted that non-compliant countries must face harsher penalties.

The European Commission - the EU's executive arm - says that the threat of being on the list can itself incentivize countries to bring their tax systems in line with EU standards, for fear of being named and shamed.

He said the pressure on listed countries to change must be intensified.

"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".

The investigation into the tax havens began in September 2016, eventually leading to a list of 17 countries: American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Grenada, Guam, South Korea, Macau, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and the UAE.

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The Council said countries may adopt further measures at their discretion, like non-deductibility of costs, controlled foreign company (CFC) rules, withholding tax measures, limitations on the participation exemption, a switch-over rule, a reversal of the burden of proof, special documentation requirements, or provisions requiring mandatory disclosure by tax intermediaries of specific tax schemes with respect to cross-border arrangements.

Besides the 17 countries that are placed on the blacklist, 47 countries were placed on a so-called "grey-list".

European authorities have urged nations to up their efforts in committing to greater tax transparency over the past year. "We must not accept unfair tax competition and opacity".

The EU proposed new rules previous year that would force multinational companies that operate in the bloc to reveal details about their operations in tax havens and summarize how much tax they pay in countries around the world.

"If countries will be implementing them they won't be part of the tax list, if we see that countries are not implementing the commitments there is the possibility that they end up on this tax list", added Dombrovskis. Panama has been battered by document leaks, including the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers, showing how the rich have stashed wealth in shell companies in Panama and other small nations. These EU standards concern tax transparency and fair taxation and require implementation of the minimum standards set out in the OECD/G20 base erosion profit shifting (BEPS) plan agreements.

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