Switzerland under pressure to clamp down on tax avoidance

City A.M. Reporter
THE EUROPEAN Union official in charge of tax policy yesterday tried to persuade Switzerland on to agree to surrender more information about clients of its big banking industry as part of a drive to combat tax evasion.

Commissioner Algirdas Semeta’s meeting with Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf in Bern came as British prime minister David Cameron put fighting tax evasion on the agenda at the G8 summit.

“It is widely accepted worldwide today that the era of bank secrecy is over,” Semeta said after the talks.

“Switzerland can gain from a stronger tax agreement with the EU with automatic exchange of information at its core. It would be a clear signal from Switzerland that it supports fair play.”

Switzerland, the world’s biggest offshore financial centre, with $2 trillion (£1.26 trillion) in assets under management, is under pressure from both the EU and the United States to end bank secrecy.

The issue has become even more heated in recent months as US authorities threaten to indict Swiss banks, a French minister quit over his Swiss account and Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness admitted evading taxes through a Swiss bank. Widmer-Schlumpf said the Swiss government would probably only be able to start formal talks with the EU in the autumn.

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