France to show no mercy in tax probe

FRANCE will not offer an amnesty to 3,000 of its citizens suspected of using Swiss bank accounts to evade tax on around &euro;3bn (&pound;2.64bn) worth of assets, budget minister Eric Woerth said yesterday.<br /><br />Woerth revealed at the weekend that he had obtained the list of suspected tax evaders and warned that those on the list would have until 31 December to pay overdue tax or face a full audit.<br /><br />He also scotched suggestions that Paris would offer an amnesty to individuals on the list.<br /><br />&ldquo;When I call on people to square their situation with the authorities, that means they will pay tax. An amnesty is to pay no taxes, or very low taxes, which is not the case,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Woerth would not name any of the individuals or banks involved, but insisted that he was &ldquo;not bluffing&rdquo;.<br /><br />The emergence of the list comes just two days after France and Switzerland signed an agreement to exchange tax data as part of Switzerland&rsquo;s ongoing efforts to remove its name from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development&rsquo;s (OECD) &ldquo;grey list&rdquo; of tax havens.<br /><br />The OECD said yesterday that Switzerland and other countries on the &ldquo;grey list&rdquo; were making good progress towards complying with its requirements on tax information exchange.<br /><br />Switzerland has initialled 12 agreements with OECD treaty nations to exchange tax data, including the US, the UK and France.<br /><br />A spokesman for the Swiss ministry of finance said: &ldquo;We still have to negotiate these 12 new agreements and when they are signed, we will no longer be on the &lsquo;grey list&rsquo;&rdquo;.<br /><br />Berne last month signed an agreement with US tax authorities to resolve a long-running dispute over accusations that American citizens used Swiss bank UBS to evade tax.<br /><br />The deal will see Switzerland hand over details of around 4,450 US bank accounts