Samoa remains on E.U. tax haven blacklist

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The European Union (E.U.) officials have proposed to remove eight countries from the blacklist of seventeen tax havens the bloc adopted in December.

But Samoa is not one of them.

Documents show that Panama, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Barbados, Grenada, Macao, Mongolia and Tunisia are the jurisdictions that E.U. officials have recommended be delisted.

The decision comes after the countries offered to change their tax rules, according to EU documents seen by Reuters.

The removal of Bahrain was also initially considered, but its delisting was eventually not recommended, the documents show.

The proposal will be discussed at a meeting of E.U. ambassadors and is expected to be adopted by E.U. finance ministers when they meet next week in Brussels for monthly talks.

Countries set to remain on the blacklist are Samoa, American Samoa, Bahrain, Guam, the Marshall Islands, Namibia, Palau, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago.

When the list was released last December, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s government took a diplomatic approach in its response.

In a statement issued at the time, Cabinet assured it is working with the European Union to comply with their obligations.  

 “The government of Samoa confirms its commitment to meet its obligations for compliance under the Code of Conduct Group of the European Council on taxation by the deadline,” the statement reads.  

 “This official confirmation is being issued as a signed letter by both the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Revenue.”

The government did not provide the letter. But the statement said the latter is addressed to the Chair of the Code of Conduct group to assure Samoa’s commitment within the prescribed time frame of 2018.  

 “The letter is also in addition to the Ministry for Revenue’s response sent to the Chair of the Code of Conduct Group on the 2nd November 2017 in relation to results as identified from its screening process.  

 “Samoa offers assurance of its willingness to work with the European Union Council in their current assessment for tax purposes as well as reassuring them that the Ministry for Revenue and the Government has never faltered nor withdrawn its commitment to ensure Samoa’s international obligations are addressed within given timeframes.”

The proposal for the delisting was made by the so-called Code of Conduct Group, which gathers tax experts from the 28 E.U. member states. It monitors countries’ commitments to abide by EU standards on tax matters.

If the recommendation were confirmed by EU ministers, the eight jurisdictions will be moved to a so-called gray list which includes those who have committed to change their rules on tax transparency and cooperation. 

The gray list currently includes 47 jurisdictions.

The shrinking of the blacklist is likely to be criticized by tax transparency groups. In December some activists denounced the listing process as a whitewash and had called for the inclusion in the blacklist of some EU countries accused of facilitating tax avoidance, like Luxembourg, Malta, Ireland and the Netherlands.

The recommended removal of Panama may cause particular outcry, as it has been at the center of one of the largest disclosures of offshore schemes, the so-called Panama Papers.

EU officials have said the purpose of the blacklist is to convince jurisdictions to become more transparent. Having fewer on the list means more countries have committed to changes, they say.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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