Switzerland: Bank secrecy feels the squeeze

26 August 2011 – Presseurop Le Temps
Le Temps, 26 August 2011

“Switzerland forced to hand over names to the IRS,” trumpets Le Temps, reporting that Washington has “gathered sensitive information that has led it to accuse Swiss banks of helping U.S. clients avoid declaring assets parked in Switzerland”. Two years after the UBS affair, which forced the Swiss to pass 5,000 customer names on to the IRS, “Washington is back and demanding more names: to set an example, to deter fraudsters, and to show that Switzerland is no longer a safe tax haven.

“For the Swiss negotiators it is already clear that the issue is not whether the country should comply with this requirement, but how,” affirms the Geneva newspaper, which notes that “the United States have already indicated that a ‘global solution' such as that worked out with Germany and Great Britain, does not interest them."

This comes some weeks after Germany, followed closely by Britain, signed agreements with Bern to “regularise” their respective nationals’ assets parked in Switzerland. “This agreement will permit London to tax secret accounts held by British citizens in the Swiss Confederation,” explains Les Echos. For the French daily, “by guaranteeing the anonymity of the account holders,” Switzerland “has preserved the essential element of its banking secrecy.” And indeed, the country has “managed to fracture European unity in the fight against tax evasion.”