Namibia not a tax haven – Schlettwein

07 December 2017 | Government

Minister of finance Calle Schlettwein has rejected claims made by the European Union that Namibia is a tax haven.

The European Union (EU) this week published a list of tax havens which included Bermuda, the United Arab Emirates, Mauritius and Namibia.

An Oxfam paper released in 2015 defines tax havens as mediums through which corporations can cheat countries out of tax income. According to an article that appeared in the British newspaper The Guardian this week, Namibia and 16 other countries were grouped together and labelled as tax havens.

“The EU said the countries failed to match up to international standards and had not offered sufficient commitments that they would change their ways during talks in the months leading up to publication of the list,” The Guardian wrote. Part of the reason for Namibia's presence on the EU blacklist has to do with failing to meet a deadline to implement proposed actions on how the local tax system could be strengthened to be on par with EU standards.

Tax officials from the ministry of finance and the EU embassy had met to discuss the criteria. Schlettwein said because questions asked by the ministry of finance were not satisfactorily answered both parties felt the need to extend the EU deadline.

“Due to miscommunication we missed that deadline but that does not make Namibia a non-compliant country or tax haven,” Schlettwein said.

“We are perplexed to learn that the European Union has revealed the names of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes which include Namibia,” he said.

Schlettwein added that the Bank of Namibia was always aware of money coming into the country and leaving it.

EU tax expert Bill Fraser, who was seconded to the ministry of finance to help ensure that Namibia's tax regime complied with EU standards, was just as surprised to hear about the blacklisting.

Tax expert Cameron Kotze was also taken aback by the move.

“A client of mine was surprised that Namibia was on the blacklist. To classify Namibia as a tax haven is completely incorrect. I really do not believe that Namibia is a tax haven,” Kotze said.

Schlettwein called the move to blacklist Namibia partisan, discriminatory, prejudiced and unjust.

“We believe that we have not been treated equally and call upon the EU to correct what has already caused serious harm to Namibia's outstanding reputation as a politically stable democracy with rule of law based institutions,” he said.

Schlettwein said meetings would be held with EU representatives to try and correct the perception that Namibia was a tax haven.

“We will find out from the EU mission here what can be done. We have arranged for a meeting with the EU ambassador. We will raise the issue at the diplomatic level to make sure our relationship will not be jeopardised,” Schlettwein said.


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