Namibia’s ‘erroneous’ tax haven status to be removed as quickly as possible

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Edgar Brandt

WINDHOEK – The classification of Namibia as a tax haven by the European Union (EU) last year can have serious repercussions, such as sanctions, for the local economy. For this reason, government has engaged EU to have Namibia delisted as a tax haven as soon as possible and in this regard, a team of officials from the Ministry of Finance have just returned from consultative engagements from the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

“An unwarranted development took place at the end of last year when Namibia was listed by the EU as a tax haven. By definition, a tax haven is a country, which offers offshore tax structures and very low tax rates as a means of attracting profits. We maintain our position that Namibia has never been a tax haven and we are not a tax haven and we will pursue this channel of engagement to have Namibia delisted,” said Finance Minister, Calle Schlettwein on Monday while addressing the ministry’s Windhoek-based staff.

“In fact, our tax jurisdiction has some of the highest tax rates in the region, so we do not fit the definition of being a tax haven,” Schlettwein added.

At the end of 2017, the EU Ambassador to Namibia, Jana Hybaskova, said Namibia has neither been labelled a tax haven nor blacklisted, she said as she shifted the blame on the international media for “mistakenly” reporting as such.

Namibia was categorised as a non-cooperative tax jurisdiction, she said, adding that the list is temporary, and is because Namibia did not respond to the questions the EU posed and will be revised at least annually, said Hybaskova at the time during an exclusive interview with New Era.

However, Schlettwein was not mollified by the EU’s statement, saying “it is semantics” and that the EU seems not to appreciate how sensitive and serious the issue is and the damaging implication on Namibia.

“If Namibia is not a tax haven then they should take us off the list. Full stop. To come now and play semantics does not take away the hard fact that investors, international partners and everyone now perceive us as a tax haven. And it does damage to our reputation,” said Schlettwein. “There must be an understanding that this is a sensitive and serious issue and [should] be treated as such,” Schlettwein stressed.

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