Swiss president rejects tax information exchange with EU

Swiss president rejects tax information exchange with EU

ZURICH - Switzerland does not need to consider an automatic exchange of information with tax authorities in the European Union, its president said in a newspaper interview.

Switzerland and Austria have come under even more pressure to abandon bank secrecy after Luxembourg accepted to reveal information on EU depositors from 2015. The EU wants to establish this practice as a standard to crack down on tax evasion.

Asked whether Switzerland still has a choice in this matter, Ueli Maurer told Swiss newspaper Le Matin Dimanche: "Of course! It is a dangerous moment for Switzerland but, unlike Luxembourg, we are not a member of the EU, we comply with OECD standards. There is no reason to change our strategy now."

Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf hinted in several interviews this weekend Switzerland may have to consider an automatic exchange of information if it wants to end its long-standing tax evasion conflict with the EU.

Maurer, who is a leading figure of Switzerland's right-wing People's Party SVP, said only domestic pressures could force Switzerland to review its policy.

"We already made some concessions. Recently again with the FATCA agreement signed with the United States," he said, adding bank secrecy no longer had the same importance as in the past as political stability and credibility were also a major draw for Swiss banks seeking to attract clients.

In a separate interview in the same newspaper, Patrick Odier, president of the Swiss Bankers' Association, said an automatic exchange of information was "not the best option" and defended the model of a withholding tax that "covers all revenues from Swiss deposits and offers a solution for the past and for the future".

A withholding tax agreement with Germany failed in the German parliament last year and Widmer-Schlumpf said in interviews this weekend the conditions for negotiating such deals had become less favourable in recent weeks.

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