his week, the European Union has released a tax blacklist made up of 17 countries and regions in an attempt to step up its fight against opaque practices that facilitate tax avoidance by multinationals and individuals, even considering the application of sanctions to countries which fail to bring their standards in line with the bloc.
After Macau’s inclusion on the blacklist, the Portuguese financial daily “Jornal de Negócios” indicated that bilateral relations and trade between some European nations and the listed countries and regions could be disrupted and affected by higher taxes. “Macau’s image as a place that favors gambling and tourism, and where the casino neons are omnipresent, is going to have the burden of another image, less beneficial to its reputation,” said another national reference newpaper, "Público."
Deputy secretary of state Ricardo Mourinho Félix was quoted as saying that the Portuguese tax haven list – which does not include Macau – “must be collated with the European list.”
The European Commission – the EU’s executive arm – says that the threat of being on the list can itself incentivize countries to bring their tax systems in line with EU standards, for fear of being named and shamed. The countries that make commitments to tax transparency will be subject to monitoring by the EU over the coming year. The bloc plans to update the list at least once a year.
But some countries, including France, have said that listed jurisdictions should also face sanctions. Potential countermeasures applicable at the national or EU level could be introduced, including the freezing of some EU funds.
“We want this list to be complete and effective. No state should escape responsibilities when it doesn’t firmly combat tax evasion,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on his way to the meeting where the blacklist was approved. “This list needs to be effective, meaning that it needs to allow us to impose sanctions so that those who don’t respect rules will change their behavior.”
Some potential countermeasures include actions at an EU level – such as limiting listed jurisdictions’ access to the European Fund for Sustainable Development – or measures that countries can take individually. These include stricter monitoring of transactions and increased audit risks for taxpayers benefiting from the regimes involved, or for those using these jurisdictions’ structures.
Other measures that could be taken at a national level – but which will be at the discretion of each country – include withholding tax measures, non-deductibility of costs, and special documentation requirements.
“There’s still a number of countries which entered into commitments as regard to good tax governance and we will be following up [on] those commitments,” European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday ahead of the meeting. “If countries [implement] them, they won’t be part of the tax list. If we see that countries are not implementing the commitments, there is the possibility that they will end up on this tax list.” MDT/Bloomberg