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Tax deal 'could yield Italy a lot of money'

12 Sep 2011, 14:25

Published: 12 Sep 2011 13:57 GMT+02:00
Updated: 12 Sep 2011 14:25 GMT+02:00

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Italy is edging closer to a tax deal with Switzerland that would yield Rome “a lot of money quickly“, according to Alfredo Gysi, head of the Association of Foreign Banks in Switzerland.

Speaking in an interview with the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, Gysi said there is a growing awareness that a tax deal with Switzerland would be beneficial for Italy.

“Italy is struggling to get its financial challenges under control. An agreement with Switzerland would bring in a lot of money quickly and prevent future tax evasion,” he said.

Gysi is also CEO of BSI (Banca della Svizzera Italiana) and has been a member of the board of the Swiss National Bank (SNB) since May 2011. In July 2009, he become one of the instigators of a withholding tax on assets held in Swiss banks that proved instrumental in securing deals with Germany and the UK. 

After a worldwide campaign against tax havens, Switzerland agreed in 2009 to soften its strict bank secrecy to comply with standards set by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Since then, the country has finalised successful tax agreements with Berlin and London allowing “customers, banks and the affected countries to reach their goals.”

The Swiss canton of Ticino, just across the border from Italy, has been an easy place for Italians to hide their money, and its banking association has estimated assets under management of around 345 billion Swiss francs ($390 billion).

During the last Italian tax amnesty in 2009, the third in eight years, at least 72.3 francs ($81.7 billion) were declared from Switzerland with 5 percent of assets paid to the Italian government. 

Despite the amnesties and an imminent tax deal, there has recently been an increased flow of capital from Italy into Switzerland, according to Italian media reports.

Gysi told the Tages-Anzeiger he thinks the attractiveness of Switzerland for taxed wealth may increase thanks to withholding tax, especially in the upper client segment.

“It no longer resides in the grey zone, but in daylight. It is cross-border banking, based on competence and trust in Swiss banks. For high net worth people, these factors are important, even if an account in Switzerland no longer has tax advantages.” 

However, Swiss officials believe that a tax agreement with Italy will be more difficult to reach than those with Germany and the UK, largely due to Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s finance minister who has been fiercely critical of Switzerland’s “tax haven”.

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