Switzerland proposes allowing banks to resolve U.S. tax evasion cases

BY ALISTAIR M. NEVIUS, J.D.

The government of Switzerland would allow its banks to disclose data about account holders to the U.S. Department of Justice, circumventing its own bank secrecy law, under a bill that will be introduced in the Swiss parliament. The bill aims to create a legal basis under Swiss law to resolve tax evasion disputes with the United States.

The bill, called the Federal Act on Measures to Facilitate the Resolution of the Tax Dispute Between Swiss Banks and the United States, would not allow banks to divulge clients’ names, but would allow them to give the United States enough other data that the U.S. authorities may be able to identify Americans who are using Swiss banks to avoid U.S. taxation. The data include information on business relationships and bank employees who have worked with U.S. clients.

The move comes after several other blows to Switzerland’s famous bank secrecy, including the handover of the names of UBS account holders in 2010 and the announcement Tuesday that the Swiss government has ordered bank Julius Baer to also hand over data on U.S. clients. Earlier this year, Switzerland and the United States signed a bilateral agreement to exchange tax information under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, P.L. 111-147.

The bill is designed to forestall “further criminal investigations or charges concerning banking institutions,” according to the Swiss government’s announcement of the bill. The Swiss parliament will consider the bill over the summer.

Alistair Nevius ( anevius@aicpa.org ) is the JofA’s editor-in-chief, tax.

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