EU creates blacklist of 17 'tax haven' countries

(Independent) -- The European Union has released a blacklist of 17 countries which it says are tax havens, after 10 months of investigations by officials.

After a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday EU finance ministers said American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Grenada, Guam, South Korea, Macau, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates are not doing enough to crack down on offshore avoidance schemes.

Crucially for the UK, the main list excludes a number of British Overseas Territories such as the Cayman Island and Bermuda that were on a previous EU blacklist from June 2015. Complaints about the methodology of that last list saw it scrapped and replaced with the new register.

The new list was drafted by the European Council’s Code of Conduct (COC), a group comprised of finance ministers from EU member states, including the UK. Countries' inclusion is based on whether a state gives preferential treatment to companies enabling them to move profits to avoid charges.

Another 47 countries have also been included in a “grey” list of countries not compliant with EU tax standards but who have committed to change their rules.

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", said Toomas Tõniste, minister for finance of Estonia, which currently holds the European Council presidency.

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

“This is not just a one-off process. We will regularly review and update the list in the years to come. Our aim is to ensure that good tax governance becomes the new norm.”

"We have adopted at EU level a list of states which are not doing enough to fight tax evasion," French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said.

The announcement comes less than a month after the publication of the Paradise Papers, a global leak containing information about individuals and companies holding offshore finances.

EU finance commissioner Pierre Moscovici had called for countries to “rapidly adopt a European tax haven list” in light of the Panama Papers revelations, as well as arguing that such a list should be enforced with “credible and meaningful” sanctions.

Potential sanctions that could be enforced on members of the list are expected to be agreed in the coming weeks.

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