Swiss president hits out at 'Anglo-Saxon' trusts

22 April 2013

Swiss president Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf told leaders of the G20 countries this weekend that Switzerland will maintain its opposition to automatic tax information exchange until all other countries comply with international standards.

She was replying to a report by the Organisation for Economic Development & Cooperation's global forum on tax transparency. The OECD report has refused Switzerland clearance for a Phase 2 peer review (which tests a country's compliance with transparency standards in practice, as well as its formal legislative compliance) unless it meets certain conditions first. It is not entirely clear what these conditions are, but they appear to be related to the need for legal powers to enforce the disclosure of ownership information.

Widmer-Schlumpf insisted that Switzerland's Federal Council has already initiated solutions for the issues criticised by the OECD, and is prepared "under certain conditions" to discuss the automatic exchange of information.  But she indicated that the country feels it is being held to higher standards than other countries, including other members of G20. "Internationally accepted standards must be complied with and implemented by all countries", she said. "Recent revelations have confirmed that various financial centres in America and Asia do not comply."

She singled out trusts as a particular target of Switzerland's resentment. "The identification of beneficial owners of trusts urgently has to be improved in many countries", she said - especially "offshore financial centres which adhere to Anglo-Saxon law".

Widmer-Schlumpf also insisted on reciprocity. "A state must be prepared to deliver the same data that it demands from another state", she said.

• Similar points have been made by Austrian finance minister Maria Fekter in recent European Union negotiations. She accused the UK of having "many tax havens under its direct jurisdiction that are the real hotspots of money laundering and tax evasion".

 

Sources

Swiss Federal Council

Swissinfo

OECD (PDF file - see page 19)

Reuters

Chicago Tribune

 


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