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Panama back on EU tax-haven blacklist

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FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 12, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

The EU on Tuesday put Panama back on its blacklist of tax havens after deciding the country had not done enough to meet global transparency standards.

Panama, along with the Cayman Islands, Seychelles and Palau were added to eight other territories already deemed to be “non-cooperative tax jurisdictions,” the Council of the EU said in a statement following a meeting of the bloc’s finance ministers.

They join American Samoa, Fiji, Guam, Oman, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, the US Virgin Islands and Vanuatu on the list.

The addition of the Cayman Islands represented the first time an overseas British territory was placed on the EU’s blacklist.

One German conservative member in the European Parliament, Markus Ferber, said that should serve as “a warning to the United Kingdom” following its departure last month from the European Union.

The European Union is concerned that Britain might want to undercut EU tax standards to gain a competitive economic advantage over the bloc. EU-UK negotiations to work out a basic future relationship are to take place this year.

The European Union had removed Panama from its blacklist in 2018, shifting it to a halfway greylist after accepting the Central American’s promises to comply with rules on sharing tax information in the wake of the 2016 “Panama Papers” revelations.

But the EU statement on Tuesday said that it and the other blacklist additions “did not implement the tax reforms to which they had committed by the agreed deadline”.

Turkey — a major trading partner that also serves as a bulwark against migration flows — is being scrutinised by the EU under those standards, but has been given to later this year for a full evaluation.

The EU standards on tax transparency align with criteria set by the OECD. They aim to fight tax evasion by ensuring the automatic exchange of fiscal information between countries’ authorities.

The blacklist was first drawn up in 2017 in the wake of several scandals, including the Panama Papers and LuxLeaks, that pushed Brussels into doing more to fight tax evasion by multinationals and the rich.

EU member countries cannot be on the list and blacklisted countries face only limited sanctions, consisting of freezing them out of European aid or development funding.


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