EU Commission names countries that may need tax avoidance screening

September 15, 2016 6:25 AM EDT

European Union (EU) flags fly in front of the European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, December 3, 2015. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission published on Thursday a list of 81 countries and jurisdictions that have a higher chance of facilitating tax avoidance and may be subject to further screening and even sanctions if all EU states agree.

The "scoreboard" is the first step in a process that should be concluded next year with the first European Union's blacklist of tax havens, which is part of a wider plan to curb tax avoidance and tax evasion by multinationals and wealthy individuals.

The preliminary lists includes countries and jurisdictions widely seen as facilitators of tax avoidance, such as Panama, Bermuda and Hong Kong. But it also lists economic and political giants like the United States, Japan, China, Australia and Canada.

The initial list is the result of an assessment of all countries in the world and is based on indicators such as the economic ties with the EU and the volume of financial activities.

"There can be legitimate reasons for a country to appear high on certain indicators," the Commission said in a note. "Therefore, there is no stigma linked to the countries that feature higher on the scoreboard," the note added.

The list will serve EU countries to decide which countries and jurisdictions may need a further screening of their tax practices.

At the end of the process, if a country is seen as a tax haven by EU countries and refuses to cooperate to change its practices, it may be subject to sanctions.

EU countries have traditionally had widely different positions on tax havens, and may find it difficult to agree on countries to be blacklisted.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio, editing by Robin Emmott)

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