BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – Former Antigua and Barbuda diplomat,Sir Ronald Sanders, has criticised the decision of the European Union to name several Caribbean countries on a list of international tax havens as part of its crackdown on multinational companies trying to avoid paying tax within the union.
In a statement, Sir Ronald, who is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London, said in naming 30 countries as the “top tax havens in the world,” the European Union appears to be “playing dice” with the reputations of countries, 12 of which are Commonwealth independent small states in the Caribbean.
Sir Ronald, who was Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador in negotiations with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on its “Harmful Tax Competition” scheme, said an examination of how Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Kitts-Nevis were listed “reveals that in all cases 10 European countries were mainly responsible for naming them.
“But, very little business is done between these seven Caribbean countries and the 10 European nations, namely Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
“If the seven independent Caribbean countries named…were seriously deficient in the application of international standards of tax and good governance (transparency, exchange of information, and fair tax competition), this would have been known to Britain with whom these countries conduct more business than any other European nation. “
He said yet, neither Britain nor Germany is among the EU countries that identified them.
Sir Ronald said that while it may well be that the named countries in the Caribbean, Pacific and the Indian Ocean do not have Tax Information Exchange Agreements with the 10 European Union nations, “they do have such agreements in place with major EU nations.
“Why then was there not more information sharing between the EU countries before the list was issued in the name of the EU as a whole?
“Small Commonwealth states should act together to object to their listing by the EU and to question the criteria by which the 10 European nations with which they least do business identified them as tax havens,” the former senior Caribbean diplomat said.
EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told a news conference that the publication of the blacklist was a “decisive step” aimed at getting “non co-operative non-EU jurisdictions to be more co-operative and adopt international standards.”
The European Commission proposals also include reforms to end sweetheart tax deals following a series of investigations into arrangements between EU countries and firms such as Amazon, Apple and Starbucks.
The tax proposals are a response to the so-called “LuxLeaks” scandal that exposed deals between Luxembourg and some of the world’s largest companies resulting in savings of billions of dollars in taxes, and critics say the publication of the list may be regarded as an attempt by Europe to distract from the need for it to tackle its own issues with tax avoidance.