Liechtenstein mulls lifting banking secrecy

Liechtenstein is considering automatically sharing information on bank accounts held by foreigners in the Alpine nation, enabling taxation by their home countries, Prime Minister Klaus Tschütscher said in a newspaper interview on Wednesday.

Liechtenstein mulls lifting banking secrecy
Photo: Government of the principality of Liechtenstein

"One can ask oneself if an automatic information exchange is not more attractive" than a system Switzerland has negotiated with several European
countries that allows foreign account-holders to remain anonymous, Tschütscher told the Swiss daily Tages Anzeiger.

According to the agreements Switzerland has reached with Germany, Austria and Britain, and which it is negotiating with Italy and Greece, foreigners with non-declared funds in Switzerland maintain their anonymity, but their assets are taxed by Bern, which in turn transfers the revenues to their country of origin.

Liechtenstein has been in talks with Germany since 2009 to find a way for Berlin to tax German holders' undeclared accounts in the country.

If the German parliament ratifies the Swiss tax deal, Tschütscher said his country would take note and would likely move in the same direction.

But if Germany does not ratify that deal, Liechtenstein will instead look closer at the pertinence of an automatic information exchange system, he said.

The Swiss system "requires a lot of manpower with the necessary qualifications to know how much tax to draw for which country," he pointed out.

"If you have to deduct 40 percent of the interest earned on capital placements, and in addition risk that something will go wrong, all in the name
of preserving the client's anonymity, that is not very interesting from a banking perspective," he added.

Contrary to Liechtenstein, Switzerland has ruled out any hint of an automatic information exchange, and has stressed that if the German parliament
rejects the negotiated tax deal it will maintain its current system.

That heavily bureaucratic system requires a country to make a judicial assistance request to Switzerland if it suspects a citizen of fiscal fraud.

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