EU to release black list for tax havens
● 92 countries investigated
A black list for tax havens and non-cooperative jurisdictions is being complied by the European Commission, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs Pierre Moscovici revealed yesterday, during the European Parliament debate debate following the Paradise Papers scandal.
Moscovici explained that there have been a total of 92 countries that have been looked into by the commission, some of which have already committed to reform, and it is believed that the list will be released on 5 December following an ECOFIN meeting.
The leak refers to the global investigation that revealed the offshore offshore activities of some of the world’s most powerful people and companies after sharing some 13.4 million files from offshore law firms and the company registries in some of the world’s most secretive countries, including Malta, with 95 media partners.
The Paradise Papers revealed offshore interests and activities of more than 120 politicians and world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth II whose private estate indirectly invested in a rent-to-own loan company accused of predatory tactics
“I am extremely concerned about the Paradise Papers, not only because there is a clearly a global circuit and system of aggressive tax planning, but because it appears that many of these seem completely legal, we need comprehensive reform, we need specific and concrete commitments with genuine substance,” Moscovici said.
The commission will also be tabling legislation to ensure that tax information on a country by country basis will be available to the public.
Moscovici also pointed to amendments in the Money Laundering directive to look at more opaque structures, as a potential remedy to the current situation. “This is a question of political will. We cannot be guilty by omission.”
Moscovici was roundly criticised by parliamentarians, specifically Lampros Fountoulis, concerning the perceived hypocrisy of the commission, when its President, Jean Claude Juncker, turned Luxembourg into a major European centre of corporate tax avoidance; while also continuing to defend the county’s tax system in European Fora.
This was echoed by other parliamentarians, with Marco Valli lambasting Juncker for failing to “show his face at this debate.”
Malta, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the British isle of Jersey, were criticised by a number of MEPs, who they said these were tax havens existing with the EU’s borders.
“Politicians have once again been implicated. Those who preached against tax evasion and avoidance are in it up to their necks. How long will we accept tax havens, who also have a seat on the Council, in the EU?” Miguel Urban Crespo asked parliament.
Luděk Niedermayer, speaking on behalf of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), said that tax havens in the EU are able to flourish because Finance Ministers refuse to act and called on them to use their power and responsibility to change the situation.”Stop using cheap excuses and hiding behind anonymity rules.”
He said the structures uncovered in leaks such as the Paradise Papers, Panama Papers, Luxleaks, etc; only serve to harm the economy, competition, fiscal policy; and as a result ultimately effect the citizen.
“People are losing faith. We need simpler and clearer tax rules, and to convince others to do the same,” he said pointing to the EU’s global position to dictate the agenda.
Leader of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, Gianni Pitella reiterated the sentiment that citizens are the real victims of tax avoidance and evasion. “In a time when states are employing austerity; multinational companies, wealthy individuals, are avoiding millions in tax.”
Bernd Lucke, from the European Conservatives and Reformists group, along with many other MEPs, also posed serious questions to parliament and the EU in general, specifically why it was only journalists who revealed the leaks; and insisted that it should be on the institutions who reveal these structures.
Petr Jezek from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats called for more efficient sanctions against banks and intermediaries involved in tax or money laundering schemes.