EU set to remove St Lucia from tax haven list

(REUTERS) – European Union states are set to remove Bahrain, the Marshall Islands and Saint Lucia from a list of tax havens next week, leaving only six jurisdictions on it, an EU document shows.

The planned removals from the EU list drew criticism from an anti-corruption watchdog on Tuesday. The decision is also likely to bring more disapproval from lawmakers and activists who had strongly criticized a first delisting in January that cut the number of jurisdictions named to nine from 17.

The latest decision was taken by the EU Code of Conduct Group, which includes tax experts from the 28 member states, according to an EU document seen by Reuters.

EU finance ministers are expected to endorse the proposal at their regular monthly meeting in Brussels on March 13.

The jurisdictions that remain on the blacklist are American Samoa, Guam, Namibia, Palau, Samoa and Trinidad and Tobago.

Bahrain, the Marshall Islands and Saint Lucia are to be delisted after they made “specific commitments” to adapt their tax rules and practices to EU standards, the document says. Those commitments are not public.

“This ever-decreasing list of tax havens will soon be so short it will be able to fit on a post-it. It’s time for the EU to publish how it chooses which countries go on the list and why,” said Elena Gaita, of Transparency International EU, an anti-corruption watchdog.

In the last cut, EU governments decided to remove Barbados, Grenada, South Korea, Macau, Mongolia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Panama.

Panama’s delisting caused particular outcry. The EU process to set up a tax-haven blacklist was triggered by publication of the Panama Papers, documents that showed how wealthy individuals and multinational corporations use offshore schemes to reduce their tax bills.

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