Swiss agrees UK tax treaty

FINANCIAL secretary Stephen Timms yesterday signed a tax treaty with Switzerland that will give UK authorities access to more information on the activities of wealthy banking clients in the European tax haven.<br /><br />The deal takes Switzerland a step closer to the 12 international agreements it needs to sign to be removed from a global grey list on tax evasion. But im impinges on the fiercely-guarded Swiss tradition of banking secrecy.<br /><br />Timms said: &ldquo;The days when hiding money offshore represented a viable means of evading UK tax are rapidly drawing to a close.&rdquo;<br /><br />The new protocol was signed by Timms and Swiss ambassador to Britain Alexis Lautenberg and comes into effect when both nations follow up with changes to domestic laws.<br /><br />It comes shortly after the Swiss signed a tax deal with France, as it fights to exit the Organisation for Cooperation and Economic Development&rsquo;s offender list. <br /><br />Switzerland agreed in March to relax its strict banking secrecy rules and embrace tax cooperation rules as developed countries started a coordinated offensive on tax evasion.<br /><br />The Swiss deal with Britain follows the signing of a key deal between Liechtenstein and Britain just under a month ago.