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ASG being onEU list of “tax havens” catches local gov’t by complete surprise

[SN file photo]

American Samoa government officials were caught by surprise that the territory was included in the European Union’s list of “non-cooperative tax jurisdictions” – or commonly known as tax havens. Besides American Samoa, the territory of Guam was also included in the list of 17 countries and territories.

According to ASG, territorial representatives worked behind the scenes with the US Treasury for a proposed response to the EU, which says that the purpose of the list is to clamp down on tax evasion and avoidance and will help EU member states.

US Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin wrote to the Council of the EU objecting to the inclusion of American Samoa and Guam on the list and asked the body to reconsider its decision, arguing that the two territories names as well as the three other US territories are evaluated as part of the review of the United States. (See story in Dec. 29 Samoa News edition for Mnuchin’s letter and Samoa News edition on Dec. 6 for details of the EU’s blacklisting of the two territories.)

Mnuchin’s letter was included in last week’s ASG news release, which notes that the EU’s announcement “came as a complete surprise” to local authorities as the EU made no contact with Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, Treasurer Uelinitone Tonumaipe’a, the ASG Tax Office, the Legislature, nor anyone else in American Samoa as far as could be determined.

Upon learning that American Samoa was on the list, Lolo immediately asked Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale and Tonumaipe’a “to engage with relevant” US Treasury authorities to determine the next appropriate steps.

A “lengthy conference call” was held Dec. 8 between Talauega, Tonumaipe’a, and officials of the US Treasury Office of International Tax Counsel. It was learnedat that time  that the EU’s “due diligence involved communications with US Treasury only” and also confirmed that no dialogue was held with territorial representatives.

According to the news release, ASG representatives “voiced their displeasure with their lack of engagement and the eventual outcome, and the EU’s apparent oversight of the relationship between the US and American Samoa.”

The governor has expressed appreciation to Talauega and Tonumaipe’a and their respective staffs for their efforts in working with US Treasury to achieve this outcome.

Lolo said the “clear and unequivocal statement” from Mnuchin “sets the record straight” with regards to American Samoa, and he appreciates Mnuchin for doing so. “Our team worked quietly and patiently with the US Treasury team to craft an official US government response to the EU blacklisting, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.”

Talauega explained in the news release why ASG didn’t publicly address the EU blacklisting sooner, saying that they were told by the governor “to keep our peace until we learn what the US Treasury is going to do about it.”

“US Treasury also cautioned us to go slow as they did not want any efforts we made to get in the way of their strategic response,” he added.

Lolo also expressed appreciation to Daniel J. Winnick of the Office of International Tax Counsel at the US Treasury for his office’s efforts in crafting Mnuchin’s response