Tax havens blast G20 list

3rd April 2009, Comments 0 comments

Luxembourg, Switzerland and Liechtenstein an OECD "grey" list of financial centres that forms the basis of the Group of 20 summit's crackdown on tax havens.

PRAGUE – Luxembourg, Switzerland and Liechtenstein on Friday blasted a G20 offensive against tax havens, regretting their inclusion on an international "grey" list of offshore financial centres.

"I think that the treatment given to some countries is a bit incomprehensible," Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker told journalists as he arrived to chair a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Prague.

After G20 leaders agreed to crack down on tax havens on Thursday in London, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development published a list of countries that still needed to implement internationally agreed tax standards.

While Luxembourg, Switzerland and Liechtenstein figured on that list, they escaped being put on a list of countries that had not even agreed to international tax standards.

In reaction to the list, the Swiss finance minister issued a statement saying that "President Hans-Rudolf Merz regrets this procedure".

"The list does not specify the criteria on the basis of which it was drawn up. Switzerland is not a tax haven," it added, remarking that it was "particularly strange" that Bern was not consulted on drawing up the list even though it is an OECD member.

Liechtenstein said that it hoped to be struck from the list.

Luxembourg along with Austria and Belgium are the only three EU members that have bank secrecy laws on their books, which they have agreed to ease after coming under fierce pressure from other European countries ahead of the G20 summit.

Juncker renewed criticism of the way the lists were drawn up, remarking that several US states with tax-friendly laws were not put on either list while Luxembourg was.

Juncker had said on Tuesday that if Luxembourg were put on any international list of offshore financial centres then Delaware, Nevada and Wyoming should also be named and shamed as tax havens.

As part of efforts to infuse the global financial system with more transparency, G20 nations agreed at the London summit to bring an end to tax havens that fail to provide information when requested.

Austrian Finance Minister Josef Proell downplayed Austria's inclusion on the "grey" list and said it did not affect the country's banking secrecy laws.

"The talks are over for us because the proof is there on the grey list that we have taken steps in the right direction," he told journalists as he arrived for the meeting with eurozone counterparts.

"From Austria's point of view, national banking law will not disturb banking secrecy," he said, adding that changes would entail improving the exchange of tax information with other countries when there is suspicion of wrong-doing.

German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck, who has led international efforts to crack down on tax havens, welcomed the new pressure on offshore financial centres.

"We cannot allow German taxpayers to be invited to put capital in these tax havens with the clear intention to hoodwink us, you and me," he said.

AFP / Expatica

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