28th Oct 2016

EU tax haven list could name US

  • Chase Bank in Delaware, US: MEP warned firms could flock to American haven if US omitted from new list (Photo: david son)

The European Commission has taken a step towards establishing a common EU list of tax havens, but critics fear that EU capitals may hijack the show and delete allied nations from the record.

The EU executive on Thursday (15 September) presented a method for verifying which countries outside the block qualify as tax havens (the commission says tax evasion problems inside the EU are dealt with under other, binding legislation).

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”A common EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions will carry much more weight than the current patchwork of national lists when dealing with non-EU countries that refuse to comply with international tax good governance standards,” the commission said in a statement.

”An EU list will also prevent aggressive tax planners from abusing mismatches between the different national systems.”

Economic ties to the EU, financial activity, political stability and basic tax good governance standards could all play a role in deciding which country ends up on the blacklist.

The ball is now with EU governments to name those countries.

Advocates of the fight against tax evasion were carefully optimistic.

”The list is interesting,” said Aurore Chardonnet, a tax policy advisor at Oxfam, the anti-poverty charity.

The indicators were more comprehensive than those recently agreed by OECD, a Paris-based club of industrialised nations, or by the G20, a grouping of the world’s 20 leading states, and could help the EU to target a number of tax havens, she said.

Chardonnet hoped that EU governments would stick to objective criteria and steer clear of temptations to omit ”close partners”.

Fabio De Masi, a German left-wing MEP who is vocal on tax avoidance and evasion issues, also feared that the list could fall prey to ”political capture”.

”It’s good if we can have Panama on the list,” De Masi said, ”but it’s pivotal that the US is included.”

The US state of Delaware is a well-known "onshore" tax paradise.

The EU, however, is basing its analysis of the US as a whole, meaning it could avoid being put on the list.

”The US is the main player, because of its economic weight. The EU must put pressure on it to change its laws,” De Masi said.

The EU list could have a negative effect if the US was omitted, he added.

”That could just motivate business to set up shop in Delaware and Nevada," the German MEP said.

It is the second time the EU has tried to set up a list of tax havens, after one failed attempt which included some of the world's poorest countries, but not Switzerland or America.

That list was published in June 2015, but was taken off the internet after less than six months.

The EU commission hopes to publish the new one before the end of 2017.

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