EU Adds to Tax Haven Blacklist

Published: 19 February 2020

Council of The EUCouncil of the European Union headquarters in Brussels (Photo: Samynandpartners, CC BY-SA 4.0)

By Eli Moskowitz

The European Council updated its list of non-cooperative jurisdictions that do not meet its tax reform requirements on Tuesday, but tax reform advocates say the list is still incomplete.

The Cayman Islands, Palau, Panama, and Seychelles have been added to the list which is meant to tarnish the reputation and hurt the business of tax havens that don’t live by council rules. A listing can affect eligibility for EU funding. Jurisdictions must submit required reports to get off the list. 

A spokesperson for the Cayman Islands issued a press release that the listing was  “deeply disappointing,” and that the government has since 2018, “adopted more than 15 legislative changes in line with the EU’s criteria.”

Cayman Premier Alden Mclaughlin also acknowledged the EU’s designation, and said his administration would cooperate with council authorities and seek to be removed from the list, which, if it complies, could be as soon as October.  

The EU made additions to its blacklist at nearly the exact same time as the public release of Tax Justice Network’s annual Financial Secrecy Index, which ranks Cayman as the world’s worst enabler of financial secrecy. The organization first launched in 2003, and focuses its attention on monitoring and analyzing international tax and financial regulation.

The Tax Justice Network released a statement on Tuesday that while updating the blacklist was a good step, it was also letting other tax havens off the hook. Its organization’s Chief Executive, Alex Cobham added that “equal countermeasures must also be taken against the other super suppliers of financial secrecy like the US and Switzerland, and indeed some of the EU’s own member states. The EU must be willing to confront secrecy wherever it originates.”  

After Cayman, the Financial Secrecy Index, shows the US and Switzerland rounding out the top three jurisdictions that it describes as the greatest enablers of financial secrecy.

Oxfam, another NGO that has  been active in pushing for global tax reform, voiced frustration with the recent developments to EU’s blacklist.

“While it is encouraging that the Cayman Islands has finally been added to the blacklist, the list itself still proves wholly inadequate,” said Katy Chakrabortty, the organization’s Head of Advocacy.