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23/07/2016

Caribbean countries demand removal from EU tax haven list

Global Europe

Caribbean countries demand removal from EU tax haven list

Vendeurs de noix de coco. Saint John, Antigua.

[David Stanley/Flickr]

The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States said it is determined to have 13 Caribbean countries removed from the European Union’s list of 30 international tax havens.

“We said we are going to aggressively pursue getting this thing to be removed,” the current OECS chairman, Grenada Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, said this week at a meeting of the group.

“It is not a positive assessment, so therefore it is something we must move to get rid of and that’s why collectively we are going to do whatever we have to do and we are taking our case to the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) region, because Barbados was also named,” he said.

Barbados is a member of CARICOM, but not the OECS.

“Historically, Barbados is known as the most compliant country in the Caribbean, so having Barbados on the list makes the thing even more ridiculous,” Mitchell said.

“It is a big surprise, the methodology used in assessing those countries is quite flawed and in fact I believe today it is more an embarrassment to the European Union than the original statement that they made. It is a big embarrassment to them,” he added.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne, whose country is also on the EU list, said the document is flawed and even baffling, given that regulators, including the Europe-based Global Forum, had found Caribbean countries to be very compliant.

“There was no prior warning, and we note too that the countries in Europe with whom we have significant trade relations, the United Kingdom as an example, Germany, France, they did not make any such assessment,” Browne said.

The European Commission is proposing reforms to end sweetheart tax deals following a series of investigations into arrangements between EU countries and multinational giants such as Amazon, Apple and Starbucks.

The EU list, released in mid-June, names 13 Caribbean countries among 30 nations worldwide that are not doing enough to crack down on tax avoidance.

The Caribbean territories listed as tax havens are: Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

OECS comprises Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Montserrat.

Background

A blacklist of the world’s 30 worst-offending tax havens was published in June by the European Commission as parts of a crackdown on multinational companies trying to avoid paying tax in the 28-country bloc. 

The list includes the tiny Polynesian island of Niue, where 1,400 people live in semi-subsistence — but does not include Luxembourg, the EU’s wealthy tax avoidance hub. The list also includes various well-known havens — among them the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands and Guernsey — but other jurisdictions that are commonly labelled as offshore tax avoidance hubs were notably missing. Jersey and Switzerland, for example, were not named.

Within Europe, Monaco, Lichtenstein and Andorra made it onto the blacklist. The commission explained, however, that the list of 30 “non-cooperative jurisdictions” was designed only to assess non-EU members. As a result, the new register does not include countries such as the Netherlands, Ireland, or Luxembourg — all of which are under investigation by the European competition authorities, suspected of offering “sweetheart” tax deals to multinationals.

"We are today publishing the top 30 non-cooperative jurisdictions consisting of those countries or territories that feature on at least 10 member states' blacklists," EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told a news conference.