EU to compile common blacklist of tax havens, sanctions against them

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union finance ministers will agree next week to draw up a common list of tax havens and sanctions against them, according to a draft EU document, part of a crackdown on tax evasion by companies and wealthy individuals.

The European Union (EU) flag is seen on a sunny day and blue sky at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, April 29, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

The EU’s 28 member states currently have their own blacklists of tax havens, or ‘non-cooperative jurisdictions’, but these differ and the countries are free to decide which restrictive measures to impose, if any.

The EU’s move to coordinate and harmonize the lists follows the Panama Papers leaks in April, which revealed details of corporate and individual tax evasion involving tax havens.

At a meeting next Wednesday, EU ministers are expected to agree to start drafting a common “blacklist” of non-cooperative jurisdictions by September and to finalize it next year.

The draft plan envisages EU countries also imposing joint sanctions against the tax havens.

“Defensive measures (sanctions) could be considered to be implemented in the tax as well as in the non-tax area,” the draft conclusions for next week’s meeting said, without elaborating.

EU finance ministers had said in April they wanted to finalize a common blacklist in September.

But the ministers cannot yet agree on how to define a tax haven and several EU countries currently do not have any jurisdictions on their national blacklists.

An EU “code of conduct group” will be charged with setting common criteria based on standards developed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

But the OECD, a club of mostly rich nations to which 21 EU states belong, does not have any jurisdictions named on its own list of tax havens either.

The ministers will propose that the EU list should be drafted using “additional criteria” that may go beyond those set at the OECD level, according to the draft conclusions.

The document has already been agreed by the EU’s national envoys in Brussels but the ministers must formally adopt it.

Sweden has raised a reservation which may slow down the work, the document said. But a Swedish parliamentary committee will discuss this issue on Friday and is likely to lift the objection.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Gareth Jones