Friday, 13 March 2009

Switzerland moves a bit on tax evasion - but will it be enough?

After its neighbor Liechtenstein has decided to revamp its banking laws and no longer provide watertight secrecy to its clients there is mounting pressure on Switzerland to move along the same lines or risk being "blacklisted" at the forthcoming G20 meeting in London.
This really puts the Swiss in an uncomfortable position and they are wriggling in discomfort at providing what is required. As the following report suggests they are making a token gesture towards the requirements for greater transparency on tax evaders but still holding on to their secrecy doctrine.
Question is just how serious are the Germans, French, President Obama, and the new convert Mr. Brown to really shut down tax havens.
To sound a rather sceptical note - I will believe it when I see it
BERN, Switzerland (AP) -- The Swiss government said Friday it would cooperate on cases of international tax evasion, breaking with a long-standing tradition of protecting wealthy foreigners accused of hiding billions of dollars in the Alpine nation.
The government insisted it would hold onto its cherished banking secrecy rules, but said other countries could now expect Swiss cooperation in cases where they provide compelling evidence of tax evasion.
"We want assistance to be restricted to individual cases to prevent fishing expeditions," President Hans-Rudolf Merz told a news conference, referring to the practice of seeking information about many individuals in the hope of discovering a few tax evaders.
Switzerland is hoping to avoid being blacklisted by world powers when they meet in April to discuss stepping up their fight against tax cheats. It is also embroiled in a dispute with the United States over wealthy Americans that have stashed money in its biggest bank, UBS AG.

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