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UBS tax case hits new snag

THE SWISS and US governments have hit a stumbling block in their efforts to settle a tax dispute between UBS and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over the transfer of details of 52,000 clients accused of tax evasion.<br /><br />The two nations are expected to reach an agreement under which Berne will provide some of the data that US authorities are demanding.<br /><br />But talks are understood to have stalled over the details of how the data transfer will be enacted.<br /><br />The US wants clear assurances that the information will be handed over rapidly to allow it to pursue tax evasion cases as quickly as possible.<br /><br />But Switzerland&rsquo;s administrative assistance process, the rules under which client details would be passed on to the US, could take at least three months, according to Christoph Bandli, president of the Swiss administrative court that would oversee the transfer.<br /><br />Politicians in Berne are keen not to draft emergency legislation speeding up the process, to avoid further erosion of the country&rsquo;s long-held bank secrecy laws.<br /><br />If negotiations do not produce a result that satisfies the US taxman, a trial against UBS would begin on 17 August, but could be delayed until 21 September if talks are prolonged.<br /><br />UBS handed over details of 250 clients in February and paid the US $780m (&pound;468m) to prevent prosecution on charges of assisting in tax evasion. Three UBS clients have since come forward to plead guilty to hiding their assets with the bank.