European Union member states unanimously rejected a proposal to include Saudi Arabia and four US territories among countries blacklisted for lax controls on terrorism financing and money laundering. As reported by Reuters, member states criticised the European Commission’s methodology, claiming that the listing used criteria different from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), considered to be the global standard for anti-money laundering.
As reported by the FT, the EU blacklist threatens to expose British overseas interests. If Great Britain abandons the European Union as scheduled, some UK territories may become candidates for possible inclusion in future versions of the “dirty money” list. The Americans are also unhappy with Brussels. The US seems more vexed about which territories appear on the blacklist rather than the practices that resulted in this “naming and shaming”. The deadline to form a majority to block the Blacklist is 12 March. The European Parliament is scheduled to vote its approval for the blacklist in the next week. It is improbable that the initiative can be blocked. Despite backing from France and renewed US pressure, it will be difficult for the UK to muster enough support to stop the update.
Suffering under the aftermath of the “Panama Papers” scandal, the Central American nation is trying to recover greater transparency on the international stage. Although Lisbon would like to shorten its tax haven blacklist, Panama’s departure is far from certain. Pressure from the Panamanian Government extends on several fronts, from the promise of greater information sharing on the one hand to diplomatic retaliation on the other against those who continue to consider it as “non-cooperative”. For the time being, Portugal is adopting a “wait-and-see” strategy.
The EU has put 17 jurisdictions on a blacklist: American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Grenada, Guam, South Korea, Macau, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, St Lucia, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. However, when contrasting the revelations in the Paradise and Panama Papers about international tax schemes, exposing some of the intricate ways that the world’s wealthy use to evade tax through offshore havens, it quickly becomes apparent that the EU has chosen to target countries with little economic or political weight. Continue reading
Beyond an unequivocal stance on climate change, the recent G20 summit also devoted significant attention to the issue of “tax transparency”. The US is currently the only major financial centre not to sign up to the Common Reporting Standard (CRS). The G20 communiqué threatens sanctions against countries not meeting the agreed international standards which include the full adoption of CRS.
Will the US give up its opaque stance (“Tax Haven USA”)? Will the OECD and the EU have the courage to blacklist the US if it fails to adopt CRS before 2018? The EU is now actively promoting the CRS as the standard it expects the US – and the rest of the world – to meet. We will watch with interest the EU blacklisting harmonisation process in the coming months.
The European Council resolved that a common EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions will be determined by the Council by the end of 2017. To be considered compliant on tax transparency, a country will need to commit to implementing the Common Reporting Standard (CRS). It must also have arrangements in place to exchange automatically tax information with all EU member states.