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Swiss govt to accept requests for banking info

January 21
03:26 2013

swiss-flagDAVOS: Switzerland will be able to provide banking and other details sought by other countries, including India, from next month about a ‘group of persons’ even without their individual identification, provided the information has not been requested as part of some ‘fishing expedition’.

A new Tax Administrative Assistance Act will come into force on February 1 and a resolution to this effect has been passed by the Switzerland’s Federal Council, a senior official in Swiss finance ministry said here.

The development follows intensified global pressure on Swiss authorities in the past couple of years to act against the secrecy walls of Swiss banks, which have been often accused of providing safe haven to illicit wealth from abroad and not sharing the account details citing their client confidentiality provisions.

While the Swiss government provides assistance to those foreign countries with whom it has relevant information exchange or tax treaties, which includes India, but requests for a ‘group of persons’ not accepted so far.

With the new Tax Administrative Assistance Act (TAAA) coming into force next month, group requests in accordance with the international standards will now be possible as well, said the official who is here for the Annual Meeting of World Economic Forum.

Such requests would require a detailed description of the actions taken by any Swiss bank’s clients “to avoid taxation and must be clearly distinct from fishing expeditions,” the Swiss Federal Council has said in its resolution for the TAAA.

Fishing expedition is a term used for information requests without concrete indications of tax avoidance or other crimes and is generally undertaken with an aim to find something interesting. “In accordance with the Ordinance on Administrative Assistance in the Case of Group Requests According to International Tax Agreements, group requests are admissible for information on issues which concern the period of time from when the law entered into force,” it added.

The TAAA governs the execution of administrative assistance under double taxation agreements.

The Act was approved by Swiss parliament on September 28, 2012, and a referendum for the same expired on January 17, 2013, without a referendum being called.

The existing ordinance governing the implementation of double taxation agreements will be repealed when the TAAA comes into force on February 1, 2013.

The European nation has taken this decision as per a new international standard set by the OECD for exchange of information between two countries.

Paris-based OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) is a grouping of developed nations and makes global policy standards for tax and other economic issues.

A revised information exchange framework between India and Switzerland last year came into force, but the European nation has always been against any kind of ‘fishing expedition’ on its banks and other institutions.

The issue of Indian persons and companies allegedly stashing their black money in Swiss banks has always been a matter of great debate in India.

The OECD has also said that the tax authorities can now ask for information on a group of taxpayers, without naming them individually, as long as the request is not a ‘fishing expedition’. -PTI



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