Switzerland, the world’s biggest centre for managing offshore wealth, began automatically sharing client data with tax authorities in dozens of other countries, as the era of bank secrecy comes to an end.
As part of its first data exchange in the program, Switzerland handed over details on accounts held at 7,000 financial institutions to EU partners and nine other partner territories: Australia, Canada, South Korea, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Iceland, Japan, Jersey and Norway.
“Identification, account and financial information is exchanged, including name, address, state of residence and tax identification number, as well as information concerning the reporting financial institution, account balance and capital income,” the Swiss Federal Tax Administration (FTA) said Friday.
“The exchanged information allows the [local] tax authorities to verify whether taxpayers have correctly declared their financial accounts abroad in their tax returns.”
The data sharing is part of a financial transparency initiative called the Automatic exchange of information (AEOI). The international agreement, to which Switzerland is a signatory, came into force in January 2017.
The AEOI, which will now take place on a yearly basis, helps local authorities crosscheck the status of local tax declarations through international verification.
“The exchanged information allows the cantonal tax authorities to verify whether taxpayers have correctly declared their financial accounts abroad in their tax returns,” said the Swiss government in a statement.
Australia is also supposed to be in that first tranche, but the FTA said that transmission to that country was delayed as the Australian authorities hadn’t yet shared data with it for “technical reasons”—the same goes for France, and the Swiss tax authority noted that Croatia, Estonia and Poland had also failed to share data thus far.
Panama has also started sharing this information, as reported by International Investment.
Swiss-US tax data transfer method ‘violates law’
The Swiss Data Protection Commissioner has issued a legal complaint against the Finance Ministry for sending the names of bank employees, lawyers, accountants and other third parties to the United States to assist with tax evasion investigations.
The Swiss Supreme Court has already issued a ruling that bans the indiscriminate disclosure of people’s names without forewarning the individuals involved. This applies even when Switzerland has a treaty to automatically exchange tax information with other countries, as it does with 30 nations including the US.
These treaties were signed following a US criminal probe into the way Swiss banks helped tax evaders. The investigation and threats of legal sanctions brought about the demise of Swiss banking secrecy.