Swiss politicians edge closer to US tax amnesty

A SWISS tax deal with the United States, crucial to the future of bank UBS, moved closer to legislative sign-off yesterday after the lower house of parliament backed the deal.

Swiss politicians, however, continued to play parliamentary ping-pong with the tax treaty which is expected to draw a line under a legal case that threatened to bring UBS, the country’s biggest bank, to its knees.

The US government agreed last year to drop tax evasion charges against UBS after Switzerland promised it would transfer the details of 4,450 clients UBS helped to dodge taxes, a move that would breach existing bank secrecy laws.

Switzerland’s lower house – where the two largest parties, SVP and Social Democrats, had until now rejected the treaty – approved the deal in its second vote on the issue after the SVP faction shifted position.

But representatives called again for a referendum, sending the deal back to the upper house and delaying a binding decision as both houses have to agree all points to get the deal through. Both houses are due to take their third votes on the matter today. If they fail to reach agreement, a special committee will be formed to try and iron out differences.