Tax exchange ‘not needed’ says Swiss president

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SWITZERLAND does not need to consider an automatic exchange of information with tax authorities in the European Union, its president has said.

Switzerland and Austria have come under even more pressure to abandon bank secrecy after Luxembourg recently agreed 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 this weekend whether Switzerland still has a choice in the 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.”

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

Mr 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.

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 Ms Widmer-Schlumpf said this weekend the conditions for negotiating such deals had become less favourable in recent weeks.