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Bern seeks deal with EU over tax evasion

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Bern seeks deal with EU over tax evasion
Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer Schlumpf. Photo: Remy Stzeinegger/World Economic Forum
10:02 CET+01:00
Switzerland wants "to settle the past" with the EU and begin settling disputes over Swiss bank accounts hidden from European tax authorities, the country's finance minister said Thursday.

"We want to reach an overall deal with the EU," Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf told a workshop on the Swiss financial sector, according to the ATS news agency.
   
Switzerland is pushing for a framework that would pave the way to full negotiations on "bilateral deals to settle the past with all of the important EU countries," she said.
   
Switzerland's deeply engrained banking secrecy practices have long made it possible for foreigners to stash fortunes in the country's banks, out of sight of the taxman back home.
   
Swiss banks now refuse such money, and Bern has been striving to make amends for the past.
   
It recently reached a deal clearing the way for Washington to slap many of its banks with massive fines for past wrong-doings.
   
Widmer-Schlumpf also said on Thursday that Switzerland must quickly move towards the automatic exchange of banking data.
   
"Uncertainty about the rules is the worst situation for the Swiss financial sector and economy," she told some 250 industry insiders.
   
Switzerland last month signed an international tax evasion agreement brokered by the OECD, which contains an optional clause on automatic information exchange.
   
The OECD wants to make this normal practice, and while it remains a sensitive issue for the Swiss, the banking industry and others have begun acknowledging that the country will eventually be forced to scrap its banking secrecy altogether.
   
But despite Switzerland's efforts, the country remains listed alongside well-known tax havens in a new OECD ranking, according to documents obtained by AFP Thursday, a day before the official release.
   
The documents showed that Switzerland had failed even to make it past the first stage of a two-stage assessment on how well 50 jurisdictions comply with rules on tax transparency.
   
Other countries who also did not make it to the second stage include Panama, the Marshall Islands and Trinidad and Tobago, although the OECD's final judgement on those locations was harsher than on Switzerland.

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