On December 5, 2017, the European Union (the EU) Council published its list of the non-EU non-cooperative tax jurisdictions. The list included American Samoa and Guam unleashing strenuous objections from the United States.
Full List of Non-Cooperative Tax Jurisdictions
A total of seventeen countries made it to the list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions: American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Grenada, Guam, Korea (Republic of), Macao SAR, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates.
Criteria for Inclusion in the List of Non-Cooperative Tax Jurisdictions
The list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions was formed out of tax jurisdictions that failed to meet three criteria at the same time: transparency, fair taxation and the implementation of anti-base-erosion and profit-shifting measures.
The EU Reasoning for Including American Samoa and Guam on the List of Non-Cooperative Tax Jurisdictions
The EU reasoning for including American Samoa and Guam on the list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions is a peculiar one because it does not seem to care about the fact that both jurisdictions are only US territories with no authority to separately sign international tax commitments (i.e. everything is done through the United States).
In particular, the EU Council specifically criticized American Samoa and Guam for three failures. First, American Samoa and Guam did not implement the automatic information exchange of financial information. Second, both jurisdictions did not sign the OECD Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters. Finally, neither American Samoa nor Guam followed the EU’s BEPS minimum standards.
US Objections to the Inclusion of Its Territories on the List of Non-Cooperative Tax Jurisdictions
In his letter to the Council of the European Union, the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin strenuously objected to the inclusion of American Samoa and Guam on the list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions. The Treasury Secretary set forth the following reasons.
First, he objected to the publication of the list per se as being “duplicative” of the efforts at the G-20 and OECD level.
Second and most important, Mr. Mnuchin stated that the EU reasoning does not make sense, because American Samoa and Guam “participate in the international community through the United States”. The fact that the United States agreed to implement BEPS minimum standards and the tax transparency standards should be considered as the agreement of American Samoa and Guam to do the same. In other words, he argued that American Samoa, Guam and the Untied States should be considered as one whole legal framework.
Based on this reasoning, Mr. Mnuchin urged the EU to immediately remove American Samoa and Guam from its list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions. It should be noted that several other jurisdictions also rejected their inclusion on the list.
Sherayzen Law Office will continue to watch for any new developments with respect to this issue.