European Union adds Cayman Islands, Seychelles, Panama to tax haven blacklist

Waterfront shopping area in George Town Grand Cayman

Waterfront shopping area in George Town Grand Cayman

Eight jurisdictions were already listed: American Samoa, Fiji, Guam, Oman, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, U.S. Virgin Islands and Vanuatu. But it did not implement the "economic substance" reforms by the deadline as promised, the European Union said.

The decision to include Panama in the so-called "list of non-cooperative jurisdictions in fiscal matters, due to the fact that the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Tax Information of The OECD has not yet given it the status of a country "largely compliant".

The EU's blacklist was set up back in 2017. To date, we have examined 95 countries' tax systems and the majority of these now comply with our good governance standards.

Zdravko Maric, Minister of Finance for Croatia, which now holds the rotating Council Presidency, said: "The work on the list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions is based on a thorough process of assessment, monitoring, and dialogue with about 70 third-country jurisdictions".

The EU Council issued (non-binding) guidance in December 2019 inviting all EU member states to apply legislative defensive measures against jurisdictions on the EU blacklist from 1 January 2021 or earlier, to encourage blacklisted jurisdictions' compliance with EU requirements on fair taxation and transparency.

The EU maintains that through cooperation and dialogue many jurisdictions have done their homework in implementing tax reforms, although the number of countries included in the list has increased over time. It is an unquestionable success, but it is also a work that is ongoing, a dynamic process in which we continually review the methodology, said Zdravko Marić, Vice President and Finance Minister of Croatia. Another 120 harmful tax regimes have also been eliminated because of the oversight, he said.

He added, "We need to ensure that we take a close look at the processes we employ when we are preparing and executing responses and solutions to these obligations".

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It is important to note that there was no suggestion from the European Union that Cayman is not cooperating with the European Union or having major transparency concerns (which is the case with other countries on the blacklist). Direct investment in these territories is allowed, though.

The decision to include well-known tax havens such as Cayman or Panama was welcomed by MEPs and the civil society but they cautioned that it was not enough.

"The blacklist is a step forward in the fight against tax evasion".

Oxfam, which lobbies for tax reform, said the EU's move was "encouraging" but many more places should be blacklisted.

"This sends a clear signal that the idea of turning the United Kingdom into a tax haven will not be acceptable to the EU", said Markus Ferber, a German member of the European parliament and the economic and monetary affairs coordinator for the European People's Party.

"But the list has gaps: European governments lack the guts to put the United States of America and Turkey on the list", Giegold added.

"The EU needs to strengthen its blacklisting criteria, put its own house in order and push for an ambitious and effective minimum tax rate at global level".

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