Banking secrecy remains intact - improved international cooperation in the case of tax offences

Bern, Press release, 06.03.2009

At its meeting today the Federal Council noted that the protection of the privacy of bank customers (banking secrecy) from unwarranted state intervention remains intact. However, the Federal Council wishes to improve cooperation with other countries in the area of tax offences. In addition it is prepared to enter into dialogue with third countries on the taxation of savings income. The criticism directed towards Switzerland by various countries due to its banking secrecy was resolutely rejected by the Federal Council. In addition, the Federal Council today appointed a group of experts to provide support in an advisory capacity. The group will be chaired by Ambassador Manuel Sager.

At its meeting today, the Federal Council took note of the criticism and the threats directed towards Switzerland by various countries concerning the question of the exchange of information on tax issues. The Federal Council considers this criticism to be unjustified. Switzerland is not a tax haven. It has an efficiently-functioning tax system and imposes normal taxes while striving to maintain competitive rates. The Federal Council stated once again today that Switzerland has concluded a number of bilateral and multilateral agreements which provide a basis in law for an exchange of information for tax purposes between Switzerland and other states. The Federal Council stated that Switzerland complies with its contractual obligations.

The need for appropriate protection of privacy of citizens from unwarranted state intervention is deeply rooted among the Swiss population. This also applies to protecting the privacy of bank customer data. Consequently, the Federal Council will continue to retain banking secrecy. However, the purpose of banking secrecy is not to provide cover for tax offences. Tax offences are also liable to prosecution in Switzerland.

The Federal Council has today taken the decision to optimise international cooperation with other countries in the case of tax offences. In addition it is prepared to enter into dialogue with third countries on the taxation of savings income. In so doing, the Federal Council will strive to ensure that the Swiss financial centre can compete on the international markets on the same terms so as to prevent it from experiencing competitive disadvantages.

To deal with issues on optimising cooperation in the case of tax offences, the Federal Council today set up a group of experts chaired by Ambassador Manuel Sager. The group supports and advises the Federal Council committee and has no decision-making powers. The formulation and implementation of measures within the scope of the strategy approved today will occur in accordance with the usual responsibilities and procedures.

The Group of Experts:

Federal Administration

- Ambassador Manuel Sager, Head of Political Division V, FDFA (Chair)
- State Secretary Michael Ambühl, FDFA
- State Secretary Jean-Daniel Gerber, FDEA
- Jürg Giraudi, Head, International Division of the Federal Tax Administration, FDF
- Ambassador Alexander Karrer, Head of the Monetary Affairs and International Finance Division, FDF
- Michael Leupold, Director, Federal office of Justice, FDJP
- Peter Siegenthaler, Director, Federal Finance Administration, FDF
- Ambassador Jacques de Watteville, Head of the Swiss Mission to the EU, FDFA


External experts

- Prof. Jens Drolshammer, Professor in American Law and Legal Transaction Planning and Structuring, University of St. Gallen
- Philipp Hildebrand, Member of the Governing Board of the Swiss National Bank
- Prof. Alfred Mettler, Professor in Finance, Georgia State University
- Prof. Xavier Oberson, Professor in Tax Law, University of Geneva
- Urs P. Roth, Chief Executive Officer, Swiss Bankers Association


Address for enquiries:

Tanja Kocher, Head of FDF Communications, tel. +41 31 322 63 01
(The group of experts does not have a communications mandate)


Publisher:

Federal Department of Finance
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
Federal Departement of Justice and Police