Switzerland to lift veil on foreign bank accounts

May 07, 2014 11:22
Swiss banks such as UBS have come under increasing pressure from foreign governments to reveal details of offshore bank accounts. Photo: Bloomberg

Switzerland has agreed to sign up to a new global standard on automatic information exchange on foreign bank accounts, marking a decisive break with its centuries-old commitment of protecting the privacy of banking clients, Financial Times reported.

The move represents a breakthrough for various governments that have mounted a concerted attack on tax evasion, the paper said.

The declaration, which was signed at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, requires countries to collect and exchange information on bank accounts and the beneficial ownership of companies and other legal structures such as trusts.

The Swiss government said the agreement underscores its commitment to tackling tax fraud and evasion. 

"Switzerland supports the OECD ministers’ declaration concerning the development of a new automatic exchange of information (AEOI) standard in tax matters," it was quoted as saying.

The Swiss Bankers Association, on its part, said banks "are willing to adopt the automatic exchange of information along with other financial centers, provided that the exchanged information is only applied for tax purposes."

Swiss cooperation is pivotal to the struggle to prise open taxpayers' hidden accounts because of its long tradition of bank secrecy and its dominant wealth management sector, which has US$2.2 trillion of offshore assets, the FT noted.

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