France seeks G20 tax haven blacklist, EU sanctions on evaders

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin attends a news conference to announce the 2015 results of the French customs in Paris, France, March 17, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

PARIS (Reuters) - France will seek tougher EU sanctions on people who help to facilitate tax evasion and a G20 blacklist of uncooperative tax havens, the Finance Ministry said on Monday following the Panama Papers leaks.

Countries on the blacklist should be subject to “counter-measures coordinated by different states”, the ministry said in a statement outlining the issues that Finance Minister Michel Sapin will push at meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the Group of 20 leading economies this week in Washington.

Some 96 jurisdictions have committed to automatically exchange tax information with other governments in the next two years, with some traditional offshore centers such as the British Virgin Islands due to start as early adopters next year.

Since signing up in principle last year, Panama has rowed back, saying it could not meet all the reporting standards required for automatic sharing.

Panama is now the only major financial center among the countries that have not committed to the automatic sharing of tax information with other governments, according to an OECD report last month to G20 finance ministers. Bahrain, Nauru and Vanuatu have also not made such a commitment.

France’s Finance Ministry said the European Union should play its part in clamping down on tax evasion by looking into imposing sanctions against people who help and encourage it.

Frustrated at Panama’s lack of cooperation in sharing information on French taxpayers’ activities in the country, the ministry also said it would seek to renegotiate a 2011 tax convention with Panama.

After last week’s revelations about the clients of a Panamanian law firm specialized in setting up shell companies, France put Panama back on its own blacklist of uncooperative tax havens. Panama had been removed from the list after the signing of the 2011 bilateral tax convention.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Michel Rose and Gareth Jones