Barbados minister condemns EU tax blacklist

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Barbados' international business minister Donville Inniss decried his nation's designation as a non-cooperative tax jurisdiction, one of 17 on the EU's blacklist of illegal tax havens, expressing shock and calling the decision "unfortunate and unfair."

In doing so, Barbados joins Panama and other nations condemning the EU's decision to blacklist them. The decision also comes scarcely a month after Barbados appeared prominently in a trove of documents dubbed 'the Paradise Papers' as a tax haven.

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"It is the view of the Barbados government that to include Barbados in Annex 1, listed as a non-cooperative tax jurisdiction, is extremely unfortunate and unfair in light of, and despite Barbados' recent direct engagement with the EU Code of Conduct Group over the past months," said Inniss in a press conference reported by local media outlet Barbados Today, following the release of the EU report.

Innis said Barbados had made the required commitments to either amend or eradicate its regimes that were not in line with EU specifications by the December 5 deadline and added that Barbados' work with the OECD's forum on harmful tax policies (FHTP) was well documented.

"I wish to state forcefully that Barbados is not a non-cooperative jurisdiction in taxation matters or any other matter. We are and remain cooperative, but true to our ideals and policies as a sovereign nation as we strive to be the international financial jurisdiction of choice," he added.

Pictured: Far from taxing daily stress, two tourists stroll under the shelter of a pier in Bridgetown, Barbados.

The news outlet spoke with the shadow cabinet business minister from the opposition Labour Party (BLP), Kerrie Symmonds, who said the decision was nothing short of "totally scandalous", though noting the government's failure to address problematic aspects of its fiscal regime over the past 10 years.

"The regime for fiscal incentives was supposed to have been moved to world trade regulation and requirement by 2007... [but] the truth of the matter is that little or nothing has been done in that time and therefore we have come to a situation where once again because of dithering and a failure to act in a serious manner, despite caution after caution by international agencies about certain things vital to Barbados' interest, we have now been put in this situation when we can least afford it," Symmonds told Barbados Today.

The outlet said Innis refuted this claim, noting the government had decided to remove the fiscal incentives regime and communicate their intent to do so to the EU before the deadline. Inniss expressed concern that the EU blacklisting could have serious implications in terms of Barbados' ability access financing and investor confidence.

"When multi-national groupings particularly as powerful as the EU issue these kinds of lists and reports they are picked up by other groupings and other organizations, including financial institutions. They may then decide that the cost of doing business or financing projects in jurisdictions such as ours will have to increase," said the minister. "They may also well go the full gamut of restricting business with Barbados all together."