Switzerland and Greece consider tax negotiations

Bern and Athens are looking at opening formal negotiations for a tax accord that would allow heavily-indebted Greece to obtain taxes from assets hidden by Greek taxpayers in Switzerland.

Michael Ambühl, Switzerland’s State Secretary, and Ilias Plaskovitis, the General Secretary from the Greek Finance Ministry, “discussed the possibility of a tax agreement like the ones Switzerland signed a few weeks ago with Germany and the United Kingdom.

“The aim is to regularise the assets held by Greek taxpayers in Swiss bank accounts in the past as well as to introduce a tax at source on future investment income,” the Swiss authorities said.

“In the coming weeks, both countries’ governments should decide on the actual initiation of negotiations,” they added.

Swiss media estimate that some 350 billion francs ($405 billion) in Greek assets are hidden in Switzerland.

However, the financial industry believes that estimate is too high.

“The 350 billion francs raised by certain media have nothing to do with what is in Switzerland,” said Bernard Droux, who heads the Geneva financial industry association.

According to one rare study by Bank Helvea on hidden assets from 2009, undeclared Greek funds totalled 24 billion francs.

The Swiss National Bank has an even smaller figure — according to last year’s data, some 4.1 billion francs in Greek assets are held in the Alpine state which has come under international pressure over its traditional bank secrecy laws.

As a result, it has signed many tax deals with critical countries to ensure more information about foreign holdings in Switzerland is available, allowing tax to be levied on them.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Switzerland and Italy hope to deliver cross-border worker tax deal ‘by 2021’

Switzerland and Italy have pledged to conclude a long-awaited tax arrangement for cross-border workers by the end of the year.

Switzerland and Italy hope to deliver cross-border worker tax deal ‘by 2021’

At a meeting in Rome between Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the two leaders said progress was being made on a cross-border tax arrangement. 

The agreement, originally negotiated in 2015, has as yet not been signed by either state. 

READ: How Switzerland avoided a coronavirus 'catastrophe' by protecting cross-border workers 

A 1974 agreement between the two countries doesn’t define cross-border worker. 

Sommaruga praised Switzerland’s decision to reject an initiative which would have restricted migration from EU countries and perhaps had impacts on cross-border workers. 

“In last Sunday's referendum, the Swiss people once again said that they want the free movement of people. It is a good thing for our country but it is also a good thing for the whole of Europe,” she said. 

“With neighbouring countries, Switzerland has adopted a regional approach excluding border regions and also cross-border workers from the quarantine regime. 

“I hope we can continue like this.”

While Switzerland rejected the migration limitation initiative, Ticino was one of four of Switzerland’s 26 cantons to vote in favour. 

Conte told reporters he hoped a deal was concluded “as soon as possible” and hoped it would be concluded by 2021. 

Conte hailed Italian cross-border workers as essential to the health system in the southern Swiss canton of Ticino, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. 

READ: How Switzerland's cross-border workers are growing in number 

In the canton of Ticino, one in five healthcare workers lives over the border in Italy – approximately 4,000 people. Ticino’s population swells from approximately 360,000 people to 440,000 during an average work day due to cross-border workers from Italy.

Unlike with Italy, Switzerland has struck a tax deal for cross-border workers from neighbouring France, which was amended during the coronavirus pandemic.