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CARIBBEAN 360 – Former Caribbean diplomat Sir Ronald Sanders says the European Union (EU) seems to be “playing dice” with the reputations of countries it has named the world’s worst tax havens.
And he has urged governments of Caribbean countries placed on the list to challenge it.
On Wednesday, the EU’s tax watchdog, the European Commission, published the list of 30 territories which were picked out by at least 10 EU member states that saw them as problematic because they were not doing enough to crack down on tax avoidance.
The list included Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, and the British Overseas Territories of Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands, as well as the US Virgin Islands.
Sir Ronald, who was Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador in negotiations with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development on its Harmful Tax Competition scheme, quickly condemned the EU’s action against the Commonwealth independent small states in the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean.
“Small Commonwealth states should act together to object to their listing by the EU and to question the criteria by which the 10 European nations with which they least do business identified them as tax havens,” he said.
Sir Ronald pointed out, for example, that while Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Spain were mainly responsible for naming Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Kitts-Nevis, “very little business is done between these seven Caribbean countries and the 10 European nations”.
“If the seven independent Caribbean countries named above were seriously deficient in the application of international standards of tax good governance – transparency, exchange of information, and fair tax competition –, this would have been known to Britain with whom these countries conduct more business than any other European nation. Yet, neither Britain nor Germany are among the EU countries who identified them,” he said.
“It may well be that the named countries in the Caribbean, Pacific and the Indian Ocean do not have Tax Information Exchange Agreements with the 10 European Union nations, but they do have such agreements in place with major EU nations. Why then was there not more information sharing between the EU countries before the list was issued in the name of the EU as a whole?”
The blacklist also includes Andorra, Liechtenstein, Guernsey, Monaco, Mauritius, Liberia, Seychelles, Brunei, Hong Kong, Maldives, Cook Islands, Nauru, Niue, Marshall Islands, Panama and Vanuatu.
European Commissioner for economics, taxation and customs Pierre Moscovici said on Wednesday that publishing the list of “non-cooperative jurisdictions” was a decisive step in pushing the territories to adopt international standards.
“Our citizens can no longer tolerate that certain companies, often the most prosperous, avoid fair tax contributions and that certain tax regimes encourage them on this path,” he said.