BASEL: Switzerland wants to update a tax deal with the US next year to allow the automatic, two-way exchange of information about bank accounts between the two countries, a senior official in Bern has said.
The move shows the scale of the rethink on bank secrecy in Switzerland, once famous for helping tax evasion. In a series of high-profile cases, Swiss banks have had to pay billions of dollars in US fines over the past decade after helping clients sidestep tax authorities.
Bern wants to end the country’s reputation as a haven for illicit money and has signed a string of agreements with other countries on the automatic exchange of information. The accords take effect in January.
Implementing globally-agreed standards was “very important for the reputation, competitiveness and integrity of our financial centre — and it is also a factor creating legal certainty”, Fabrice Filliez, deputy head of tax at the Swiss international finance department, told the Financial Times.
Switzerland is the world’s largest centre for cross-border private client wealth management. In recent years, its banks have had to overhaul business models to ensure their clients are fully tax compliant.
US authorities can already receive information automatically about Swiss bank accounts under the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2010. But Mr Filliez said Bern wanted to follow other European countries in agreeing arrangements that would permit reciprocal exchange of information.
Such agreements would also allow Swiss authorities access to information on whether Swiss tax had been evaded on money in US bank accounts. “It is a matter of principle and international equality,” said Mr Filliez. “When you commit to something you want your partners to commit to something similar.”