Namibia angered by EU’s tax haven tag
By Timo Shihepo
Windhoek – The blacklisting of Namibia by the European Union (EU) as one of the countries which are non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes has angered the southern African country and could potentially harm the trade relations between the two parties.
Namibia is one of the 17 countries that were named and shamed by the EU as tax havens in a list published yesterday.
The blacklisted countries are accused of behaving like tax havens. That means they promote unfair tax practices, or don’t share important financial information with the EU.
Speaking at a media briefing today, Namibia’s minister of finance, Calle Schlettwein appeared irritated, criticised the list and accused the EU of having an agenda.
“Namibia is clearly, by any objective criteria, not a tax haven. In fact, Namibia is exposed to illicit financial outflow as has been revealed in the recently published ‘Paradise Papers’.”
“We had hoped that our trusted partners, including the EU, would assist us in fighting tax havens and curbing tax evasion and as we speak we have EU experts within the Ministry of Finance assisting us to improve our tax system.”
One of the EU experts was also present at the media briefing and confirmed that Namibia is not a tax haven.
The other countries and territories alongside Namibia listed as tax havens are Panama, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Mongolia, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Isle of Man and Jersey, American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Grenada, Guam, Macau, the Marshall Islands, Palau, St. Lucia and Samoa.
The EU says it updates the list at least annually.
Explaining the factors that led to the blacklisting of Namibia, Schlettwein said it was simply due to a deadline date miscommunication.
“There was a miscommunication with the deadline. We were made aware of the deadline of the 5th December and the other 12th December. But we were made to believe that the deadline was the 12th, hence we thought we still had time to submit the information as requested by the EU. Even so, one cannot be classified as a tax haven only because you missed a deadline. Facts are facts and instead the EU should have notified us that we missed the deadline. That’s it.”
The EU’s list is also questionable given the fact none of the 15 tax havens as mentioned in the 2016 Oxfam Releases List were not included in their list. Countries like Switzerland, British Virgin Islands and Singapore were not included on the EU’s list.
Commenting on the EU’s list, Alex Cobham, chief executive of the Tax Justice Network said: “Rather than have a list of tax havens based on an objective set of criteria, as originally envisaged, the list appears to be a political fix with EU members picking their least favourite countries to name and shame. The result is a flawed blacklisting process, a politically led list that includes only the economically weak.”
The European Commission delegation to Namibia is set to comment on the issue during a media briefing on Thursday.