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Swiss ambassador rejects US tax criticism

Switzerland's ambassador to the United States, Manuel Sager, has penned a letter strongly refuting “claims that Switzerland is fighting against handing over bank information about Americans who have cheated on their taxes.“

Swiss ambassador rejects US tax criticism
FDFA

Writing in response to an editorial in the New York Times, Sager argued that the Swiss government has worked hard to implement a comprehensive strategy it approved in 2009 to discourage the influx of undeclared money.

“Switzerland is determined to be a leading global financial centre for clean money. Untaxed money has no place in Switzerland“, he said. The New York Times editorial on August 17th, titled “Swiss banks, aiding and abetting“, said:

“Despite IRS efforts, wealthy American tax cheats are still able to hide their money because Swiss banks are eager to help them.“

After accusing Swiss financial advisers of the continued use of “shady tactics“, such as opening fake businesses and foundations, the New York Times also made reference to the US criminal investigation against Credit Suisse following the $780 million fine against UBS for helping customers to evade tax. The editorial concluded:

“Switzerland is again resisting demands for more information about American clients. Washington should not stop pushing until all Swiss banks hand over their files and close those accounts.“

Sager referred in his letter to a new tax treaty with the United States allowing for the exchange of information in cases of tax evasion, which he said was signed almost two years ago.

“The United States has not availed itself of this new instrument up to now, however, as the treaty is still awaiting approval by the United States senate“, he wrote.

“Switzerland has made a constructive offer; it needs only to be used. That includes a tailor-made solution ensuring full compliance by American taxpayers regarding past as well as future obligations.“

Swiss president Micheline Calmy-Rey on Tuesday described as “legally unacceptable” the increasing demands from US tax authorities for data from Switzerland on alleged tax evasion by Americans.

Most recently, Switzerland arrived at a far-reaching understanding with Germany that will lead to a resolution of all previously undeclared assets in Swiss banks. A similar agreement with the United Kingdom is currently being negotiated.

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TRAVEL

US reclassifies Switzerland: What does it mean for American travellers?

America’s public health agency eased travel alerts for dozens of countries this week, including Switzerland. But does it mean that people from the United States can now travel here?

US reclassifies Switzerland: What does it mean for American travellers?
Not yet, but hopefully soon. Photo by Jan Rosolino / Unsplash

Switzerland in early June announced vaccinated travellers would be able to come on June 28th. Therefore, this story is now out of date. Please click here for more information. 

Due to massive vaccination efforts around the world, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lowered travel warning levels  for more than 110 countries and destinations, including Switzerland.

From the highest level four previously, which means all travel is discouraged, Switzerland was ‘promoted’ to Level 3, allowing travel for fully vaccinated individuals.

In total, 14 countries, including Switzerland’s neighbours France and Italy, have been reclassified to a lower level.

Does this mean American tourists can now come to Switzerland?

Even though the CDC has cleared travel for vaccinated US residents, it doesn’t mean they are now allowed to enter Switzerland.

For the time being, travel ban is still in place for most third countries, including the United States. The only exceptions are Swiss citizens or permanent residents returning to Switzerland.

READ MORE: When will Americans be allowed to travel to Switzerland again —and vice-versa?

There are some other exemptions as well, including people whose presence in Switzerland is absolutely necessary to maintain the functioning of the healthcare system or public security and order, death of a close family member in Switzerland, and to continue essential medical treatment that began in Switzerland or abroad.

Each of these conditions must be proven with official documentation.

For other ‘special necessity’ rules, see SEM’s page.

Basically, this means that tourists or other random travellers can’t come to Switzerland at the moment.

There are, however, some promising signs that this restriction may be lifted.

Swiss president Guy Parmelin is scheduled to meet with his US counterpart, Joe Biden, on June 15th. Biden will be in Geneva for high-level talks with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin. 

It is not known what Switzerland and the United States will discuss at the meeting, beyond matters of importance to both nations, but there is a possibility that the subject of easing travel restrictions on both sides will be raised.

Also, under France’s new traffic light travel system, fully-vaccinated travellers can now enter France from non-EU countries, including the US.

This does not apply to Switzerland yet, but as the two countries share a border and both are part of the Schengen zone, Swiss entry regulations for US tourists might be relaxed in the near future — though not at this time.

Does this mean US residents can ‘slip’ into Switzerland through France?

Borders between the two countries are pretty porous and checks random at best, but if you attempt to get into Switzerland this way, you’d be breaking the law.

The only US citizens who can come into Switzerland legally right now are those residing in the EU/EFTA states, or one of the third nations deemed safe by public health officials:  Australia, New Zealand, Cyprus, Rwanda, South Korea, Singapore, and Thailand.

In other words, it’s not the nationality of a traveller that counts but their place of residence.

What about Swiss citizens going on vacation to the United States?

The US still has a ban in place for tourists from the EU, including Switzerland. It also has similar exceptions — that is, US citizens and permanent residents returning from abroad.

The US is forming expert groups to decide when to lift global travel restrictions that have been in place since March 2020.

However, this will probably take time and, despite mounting pressure from the travel industry and airlines, US-bound travel may not be on the horizon for this summer.

READ MORE: How to get Switzerland’s Covid-19 health pass

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