The European Commission has taken a first step towards compiling an EU-wide blacklist of global tax havens by the end of next year, it announced Thursday, amid broader efforts to crack down on tax evasion.
The European Union has ratcheted up efforts to fight tax evasion, as a number of revelations - such as the so-called LuxLeaks and Panama Papers scandals - have shed light on the practices of companies and individuals seeking to reduce their tax bills.
The commission, the European Union's executive, aims to produce a common list of countries around the world that do not cooperate with EU tax authorities. This would replace national lists, making it easier to coordinate action and sanction the countries involved.
This week, the commission presented member states with an initial list of countries, rated according to factors such as the strength of their economic ties with the EU, the amount of financial activity they handle and risk factors such as overall transparency.
The assessment "does not represent any judgement" of the countries listed, the commission said in a statement, noting that it is now for member states to decide which to take a closer look at. The world's 48 least developed states are not included.
"Today is not about naming and shaming any countries," said EU Economy Commissioner Pierre Moscovici. "That moment will come at the end of 2017, when we have a credible, robust and common EU list to share with our international partners," he added.
The aim is to start screening selected countries early next year, in a process that will also include consultations with the jurisdictions involved. Blacklisting countries should be seen as a measure of last resort, the commission said.