The European Union has adopted a “blacklist” of 17 tax havens, which could mean they lose access to EU funds and face other sanctions.
The decision was made at a meeting of finance ministers in Brussels as EU authorities move to counter tax avoidance and evasion – having urged dozens of nations to make greater commitments to transparency over the past year.
French finance minister Bruno Le Maire confirmed American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Grenada, Guam, South Korea, Macau, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates were the countries listed.
A further 47 jurisdictions were included in a “grey” list deemed not currently compliant with EU standards though they had committed to change their tax rules, he added.
“We have adopted at EU level a list of states which are not doing enough to fight tax evasion,” he said.
The action is aimed at countering disclosures about the behaviour of companies and individuals – the most recent in the release of the so-called Paradise Papers.
EU states launched a process in February to list tax havens in an attempt to discourage setting up shell structures abroad.
While most are legal, there are concerns illicit activities may be being missed.
The EU said it would decide on what measures, if any, were necessary against the territories on the blacklist in the coming weeks.
Pierre Moscovici, commissioner for economic and financial affairs, said: “The adoption of the first ever EU blacklist of tax havens marks a key victory for transparency and fairness.
“But the process does not stop here.
“We must intensify the pressure on listed countries to change their ways.
“Blacklisted jurisdictions must face consequences in the form of dissuasive sanctions, while those that have made commitments must follow up on them quickly and credibly.
“There must be no naivety: promises must be turned into actions. No one must get a free pass.”
France is said to be pushing for the toughest response.
A UK Treasury spokesperson said: “Today’s publication marks an important step in our ongoing efforts to tackle tax avoidance and evasion internationally.
“This is clearly working, as over 40 jurisdictions have made significant commitments to reform as part of this process.
“For those that are on today’s list, we hope that this increased scrutiny and the potential for counter-measures will lead them to re-consider their approach.”