• Switzerland's news in English
 

OECD deal means 'end of Swiss banking secrecy'

Published: 15 Oct 2013 16:16 GMT+02:00

This marks "the end of banking secrecy" in Switzerland, the head of tax issues at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Pascal Saint-Amans, told AFP.
   
The inclusion of Switzerland in the agreement to exchange information among more than 60 countries will be "highly significant" in the fight against tax evasion, he said.
   
OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria said Switzerland's adherence to the the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters "sends a clear and strong signal that Switzerland is part of the community of states which consider international tax co-operation as a necessity".
   
At the instigation of many advanced countries, the Paris-based OECD has spearheaded a clampdown on tax evasion and the concealment of illicit funds.
   
Swiss banking secrecy in its current form took shape before World War II, and provided the victims of Nazi persecution with a way to protect their assets.

The movement to scrap the policy in Switzerland and other well-known "tax havens" arose after the financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent eurozone debt crisis.
   
Ordinary people with money woes, often facing higher taxes to cover the 
costs of the crises, were outraged by revelations of tax evasion and avoidance by corporations and wealthy individuals.
   
US tax authorities in particular took tough action against some Swiss banks.

   
At the same time, high-profile controversies arose when lists of bank 
accounts stashed in Switzerland were leaked to tax authorities elsewhere.
   
The Swiss ambassador to the OECD, Stefan Flückiger, said the signing of 
the Convention confirms Switzerland's commitment to fight tax fraud and "safeguards the integrity and reputation of the country's financial centre."
   
The convention's signatories so far include all 20 members of the Group of 
Twenty (G20) of the world's leading economies, as well as more than 40 other countries.
   
In addition to exchanging information, signatories agree to organize 
simultaneous controls to track tax fraud.
   
The main objective is to ramp up the effort to catch cheats who hide assets 
and transactions behind the protective laws of offshore tax havens.
   
Until now, many tax authorities and their governments have complained that 
cross-border tax investigations have been stymied by the complex routes used to hide funds, coupled with obstructionism on the part of some national authorities.
   
These difficulties have been exacerbated by the increased openness of 
frontiers to capital flows as well as the use of new technologies for transferring money.
   
Saint-Amans said the convention "prepares the way for the automatic 
exchange of tax information".
   
The OECD wants to make this the normal practice internationally, but it 
continues to be an extremely sensitive issue for the Swiss, as well as for some other countries.
   
Under the convention as it stands, however, the automatic exchange of 
information is optional.
   
The OECD noted that among the countries that have signed the convention or 
are preparing to are a number of jurisdictions often described as tax havens, some under the British crown, notably in the Caribbean.
   
Saint-Amans said the noose would continue to tighten on tax evasion and 
that countries that do not sign up to the agreement "would begin to be sidelined".
   
He said: "I can't see how going back could be possible."

   
Switzerland, which has been under strong pressure since the financial 
crisis to open up its banking secrecy and to tax foreign assets, announced its intention to sign the agreement last week.
   
At the same time, it expressed its concern to preserve the integrity and 
reputation of its financial institutions.
   
The next hurdle — which could prove a formidable one — is ratification of 
the convention by the Swiss parliament.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Solar Impulse flies to China on fifth flight
Pilot Bertrand Piccard talks to reporters in Myanmar before takeoff. Photo: Ye Aung Thu/AFP

Solar Impulse flies to China on fifth flight

Switzerland's Solar Impulse 2 took off from Myanmar's second biggest city of Mandalay early on Monday and headed for China's Chongqing, the fifth flight of a landmark journey to circumnavigate the globe powered solely by the sun. READ  

Young urban Swiss catch the car-sharing bug
Photo: Mobility

Young urban Swiss catch the car-sharing bug

A Swiss cooperative that allows members to share cars is shifting into high gear. READ  

Iran journo at Lausanne talks seeks Swiss asylum
Secretary of State John Kerry and other US officials meeting with Iran's Foreign MInister Javad Zarif and associates on Sunday. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Pool/AFP

Iran journo at Lausanne talks seeks Swiss asylum

In the margins of intense talks in Lausanne to reach a deal over Iran’s nuclear future over the weekend an Iranian journalist took advantage of the situation to file a request for asylum in Switzerland, media reports said. READ  

Fewer foreigners buy Swiss holiday homes
Photo: Mirko Grifoni

Fewer foreigners buy Swiss holiday homes

Fewer foreigners are buying apartments in Switzerland as secondary residences, according to new federal government figures. READ  

 Swiss pilot dies in Ecuador volcano crash
Photo: Twitter

Swiss pilot dies in Ecuador volcano crash

A Swiss aviator attempting to circumnavigate the world in 20 months in a lightweight two-seater aircraft died at the weekend after crashing into a volcano in central Ecuador, officials said. READ  

Two skiers killed in Swiss avalanches
Photo: AFP

Two skiers killed in Swiss avalanches

Two skiers, a German and a British national, have been killed in avalanches in Switzerland, police said on Saturday. READ  

Iran nuclear negotiations kick into high gear
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (L) and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif. Photo: AFP

Iran nuclear negotiations kick into high gear

Foreign policy chiefs continue to gather in Lausanne to try to broker a deal by Tuesday on Iran’s nuclear program. The EU’s foreign policy official was to join the talks on Saturday, a day earlier than expected. READ  

Marathon Iran nuclear talks hit critical weekend
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (second right) with staff after a negotiation session in Lausanne on Friday. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Marathon Iran nuclear talks hit critical weekend

Marathon Iran nuclear talks headed on Friday towards a critical weekend as Britain said its foreign minister would join his US, Iranian and French counterparts in racing the clock to pin down a deal in Switzerland. READ  

Geneva-based UBP acquires Coutts business
Photo: AFP

Geneva-based UBP acquires Coutts business

Swiss family-owned bank Union Bancaire Privée (UBP) announced on Friday that it is acquiring the Royal Bank of Scotland's international private banking and wealth management business. READ  

Swiss probe 'animal cell' injection clinics
Woman receives anti-ageing treatment with cell stimulation at last year's Beauty Asia trade show in Singapore. Photo: Roslan Rahman/AFP

Swiss probe 'animal cell' injection clinics

Swiss health regulators say they have launched a criminal probe into dozens of clinics suspected of giving clients potentially dangerous animal cell injections as part of anti-ageing treatments. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Features
Six steps for expats to get along better with the Swiss
Business & Money
Ethical Coffee Company aims to beat Nespresso in home market
National
Use of temporary staffing continues to rise in Switzerland
Sponsored Article
Need help with permits and registration in Switzerland?
National
Swiss foreign affairs minister touted as candidate for top UN job
National
One of Switzerland's most celebrated artists dies in Lucerne at 106
Business & Money
Swiss luxury brand Tag Heuer announces plans for smartwatch
National
Valais lights up 13 mountain peaks for 200th anniversary
Business & Money
Switzerland to avoid recession this year: Credit Suisse forecast
Business & Money
Europe's tallest hotel pitched for Swiss mountain village
National
Exlusive interview: surviving Swiss cousin remembers Anne Frank
National
New Credit Suisse chief executive 'offers hope for Africans'
Features
Top tips to help you find an apartment in Switzerland
Business & Money
American expat to make way for African as Credit Suisse CEO
National
Rising Swiss gender pay gap above European Union average
National
Political deal reached to enact Swiss holiday home restrictions
National
Optimism drives this year's Geneva International Motor show
National
Robust Swiss economy beats forecasts for 2014: government
Sport
Federer scores upset win against Djokovic for seventh Dubai title
National
Swiss train in collision near Zurich ignored stop signal: SBB
Technology
Switzerland best in world for per capita European patent filings
Education
New EPFL building to showcase art and science 'under one roof'
National
Same-sex marriage supported by most Swiss: opinion polls
National
New study finds Switzerland is world's best place to retire
National
Army official calls for Swiss women to undergo military training
National
New Swiss health campaign combats smoking as 'norm' for too many
Culture
Abba star Frida records song about first ascent of the Matterhorn
National
Swiss federal government unveils EU immigration quotas bill
Business & Money
HSBC Swiss private bank revelations 'tip of iceberg': whistleblower
Business & Money
FATCA: 'The age of financial privacy is over'
National
Phil Collins' paralyzed ex-wife files lawsuit after Swiss complications
Culture
Gauguin on display in Basel touted as 'most costly painting ever'
Business & Money
Swiss Leaks: HSBC Swiss private bank 'catered to terrorists and crooks'
International
What's keeping British expats in Europe from voting in UK elections?
Business & Money
Trade balance bulges as Switzerland smashes record for exports in 2015
National
Swiss town's ploy against workers living in Italy 'not racist'
National
Architects propose skyscrapers for new Geneva 'urban centre'
Culture
Renowned Israeli conductor dies during symphony in Lucerne
International
Population of Swiss citizens abroad continues to expand
National
Vaud property salesman jailed over costly gambling addiction
National
Right-wing group seeks citizens' vote for national face veil ban
Health
Swiss doctors 'worst' for leaving foreign objects in patients
Features
Anglophone expats in Switzerland mine creativity to earn crust
National
Number of 'immigrants' swells to third of Swiss population: report
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

4,669
jobs available