• 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
Wimbledon 2015
Verdasco victory sends Wawrinka to fourth round
Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP

Verdasco victory sends Wawrinka to fourth round

Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka reached the fourth round of the Wimbledon tennis tournament on Friday with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 win over Spain's Fernando Verdasco. READ  

Solar Impulse 2 nears Hawaii on historic flight
Borschberg in the cockpit of the solar plane. Photo: Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse 2 nears Hawaii on historic flight

After more than four and a half days of flying across the Pacific and setting a record for solo flight, Switzerland’s Solar Impulse 2 airplane was set to arrive in Hawaii on Friday on its epic journey around the world. READ  

Sponsors will flee Fifa without reforms: lawyer
Photo: AFP

Sponsors will flee Fifa without reforms: lawyer

A former top Fifa official who left after criticizing its president Sepp Blatter has warned that big sponsors will start leaving world football's Zurich-based governing body unless major reforms are undertaken. READ  

Commuters stuck in trains without electricity
Photo: Kecko

Commuters stuck in trains without electricity

Heat took its toll on morning rail commuters on Geneva-Lausanne and Olten-Zurich routes on Friday as trains were blocked due to problems with overhead electrical wires. READ  

Swiss baby boom boosted by immigration
Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Swiss baby boom boosted by immigration

Switzerland is bucking the trend in the rest of Europe with a rising birth rate bolstered by immigration, new federal figures show. READ  

Glider pilot dies in Swiss junior championships
Glider (not the one involved in the crash) prepares to land. Photo: Paul Haliday

Glider pilot dies in Swiss junior championships

A 25-year-old man died after the glider he was piloting in a competition crashed in the municipality of Klosters in the canton of Graubünden, police said on Thursday. READ  

Solar Impulse pilot fights fatigue close to Hawaii
Photo: Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse pilot fights fatigue close to Hawaii

A Swiss solar-powered aircraft flying from Japan to Hawaii on the most perilous leg of a round-the-globe bid has beaten the record for the longest solo flight, the project's team said on Thursday. READ  

Wimbledon 2015
Federer eases past Querrey into third round
Photo: AFP

Federer eases past Querrey into third round

Former champions Roger Federer and Andy Murray swept into the Wimbledon third round on Thursday as a fourth player from the women's top ten tumbled out of the tournament. READ  

Railway posts 'how-to' toilet signs for tourists

Railway posts 'how-to' toilet signs for tourists

Fed up with having to clean up messes in the public toilets, the operators of the Mount Rigi cogwheel railway in central Switzerland have installed pictogram signs showing the right and wrong way to use the facilities as part of an information campaign. READ  

Fifa corruption scandal
US formally seeks Fifa officials' extradition
Fifa headquarters in Zurich. Photo: AFP

US formally seeks Fifa officials' extradition

Bern said on Thursday the United States had formally requested the extradition of seven Fifa officials arrested in Zurich last month in a wide-ranging probe into corruption in football's top body. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
National weather office extends danger alerts as heatwave takes hold
National
Most severe heatwave in Switzerland since 2003 on the way
Travel
Bogglingly expensive Geneva club sandwiches remain 'priciest in world'
Politics
Anti-immigration nationalist party remains most popular: poll
National
Greek finance minister slams Swiss over lack of tax evasion info
Business & Money
Insects proposed for sale in Swiss supermarkets next year
Sponsored Article
Geneva's revolutionary marketing education
National
'Oh God — I'm coming': noisy lovers' complaint goes public
National
Canton of Ticino threatens closing Italy border to asylum seekers
Sponsored Article
Swiss chocolate with a story: Blondel
National
Just in case: Swiss National Bank prepares for Grexit 'crisis'
National
Russian crisis fuelled by sanctions threaten 40,000 Swiss jobs: study
National
Art Basel: Art for art's sake — or to make an investment?
National
New survey ranks Zurich Europe's priciest city for expatriates
National
Quarter of residents in Switzerland 'have multiple homes'
Features
Veggie lovers and 'flexitarians' challenge Swiss meat-eating habits
National
Forest officials struggle to save Switzerland's dying ash trees
Education
Historian finds ancient Egyptian papyrus texts in Basel uni library
National
Seven large Swiss employers back 'flexible work' charter
National
Basel police rescue of ducks forces closure of A2 motorway
National
Mother and daughter die as rain storms lash central Switzerland
Sport
'Stan the man' Wawrinka: French Open triumph 'completely crazy'
Culture
Expat's Zurich 'then and now' video shows how little the city has changed
National
Phoney Geneva police officers rob tourists and UN staff
Sport
Blatter's abrupt resignation seen as a 'stunning capitulation'
Features
Cleanup crews head to ski resorts to keep Swiss mountains tidy
Culture
Interlaken museum showcases works by Picasso using Caran d'Ache pencils
National
Low interest rates give tenants right to seek rent reductions in Switzerland
Sport
Switzerland's Blatter fends off critics to win fifth term as Fifa president
National
Agricultural researchers discover why Swiss cheese has holes
Culture
Swiss filmmaker returns home to shoot 'gender-fluid' film in Ticino
Features
Severed rope recalls Matterhorn's first ascent 150 years ago
National
Top Swiss court refuses to recognize child's two gay 'fathers'
National
Woman's scoop for Ticino online news site: 'I killed my husband'
National
Four Swiss bathing areas 'unfit' for swimmers: Euro environmental body
Technology
Scientists from Zurich university find craters beneath Lake Neuchâtel
National
Prince William in Switzerland backs fight to protect endangered species
National
Swiss Federal Railways rely on sheep to 'mow' grass alongside tracks
Sport
Switzerland to host 2020 international ice hockey tourney
Business & Money
I never learned German: departing Credit Suisse CEO's regret
Sport
International tennis museum in US showcases Federer hologram
National
Inequality greater than most Swiss think: opinion poll for unions
National
Shooting in Switzerland leaves five dead in domestic drama near Zurich
National
Swiss Federal Railways tackle taboo subject of suicide in bid to cut deaths
National
German expats in Switzerland face discrimination: 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

4,313
jobs available