Published On: Wed, Dec 6th, 2017

EU releases tax haven blacklist; Netherlands not on it

European CommissionTHE HAGUE - The European Union published its black list of tax havens. It consists of 17 countries the EU believes help multinationals and rich people avoid the tax authorities. The Netherlands does not appear on the list - no EU countries do. But Aruba and Curacao, which form part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, were placed on a "gray list" - they have two years to implement promised improvements, or they'll be blacklisted, the Volkskrant reports.

This blacklist was compiled following journalistic revelations about large scale tax evasion by multinationals, entrepreneurs, politicians and others from documents like the Panama papers, the Paradise papers, Lux leaks and the like. After over a year of negotiations, the EU member states agreed to put 17 countries on the blacklist, including Panama, the United Arab Emirates, the Marshall Islands and Grenada. The countries on this EU blacklist can be penalized with trade barriers, stricter controls, loss of EU subsidies and additional tax levies, according to the newspaper.

In addition to the blacklist, the Member States also agreed to put 47 countries on a gray list. These countries promised enough improvements not to be blacklisted immediately. They have a maximum of 2 years to implement these improvements, or they will be moved to the blacklist. In addition to Aruba and Curacao, these countries also include Hon Kong, Taiwan, Turkey, the Cayman Islands, the Seychelles, Guernsey and Andorra.

European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici of Economic and Financial Affairs emphasized that these lists were compiled by the Member States and not by the European Commission. It is up to the Member States themselves how they handle their taxes, and the Member States can decide whether to impose sanctions against the countries on the black list. The Commission tried to impose an obligation to do so, but it failed.

The Socialists and Greens in the European Parliament called the list weak, according to the newspaper. The Greens believe that Member States like the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Great Britain and Cyprus should also be on the blacklist. "It is sad that the member states have shown so little courage and responsibility", PvdA European Parliamentarian Paul Tang said to the Volkskrant. He added that the cry of indignation about tax evasion was smothered in the back rooms of Brussels.

Last week development company Oxfam Novib also said that if the criteria for non-EU countries were also applied to EU member states, the Netherlands, Ireland, Luxembourg and Malta would all be blacklisted. The company referred specifically to the Netherlands' sweetheart tax deal with American coffee giant Starbucks.

Last year the Netherlands was reprimanded by the European Commission for allowing Starbucks to avoid almost 26 million euros in taxes through the Netherlands. Despite the Dutch government's objections, the Netherlands had to reclaim that money from the American coffee giant. 

Moscovici acknowledged that these black- and gray lists are not enough to tackle tax evasion.

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