Saturday, January 7, 2012

Switzerland, Singapore agree tax deal

Agence France-Presse - Monday, August 31, 2009
Switzerland said on Monday that it had agreed a double taxation deal with Singapore to allow for data exchange aimed at clamping down on tax cheats.

The accord, which has yet to be formally signed, is one of a series agreed by Switzerland under an OECD initiative.

Singapore's Double Taxation Agreement is the 14th negotiated after Denmark , Luxembourg, Norway, France, Mexico, the USA, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, the United Kingdom, Austria, Finland and Qatar, a Swiss government statement said.

The initialled accord is the first step to a revised DTA, it said.

Details will not be released until the accord is formally signed.

Faced with international pressure, Switzerland announced earlier this year it would ease banking secrecy rules and offer more assistance on matters involving tax offences.

Banking secrecy laws prohibit Swiss banks from revealing information to domestic or foreign authorities or any third parties about their clients, except in cases involving recognized criminal investigations.

In Switzerland, only tax fraud is regarded as a crime, not tax evasion which is treated only as an offence, a judicial distinction that does not exist in most other major economies.

But with the new bilateral deals, Switzerland can offer assistance on all tax offences, as long as there is evidence of tax violations.

On Monday, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said all its 30 members now followed its rules on sharing information for tax purposes after Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland accepted them.

"What has happened is nothing less than a revolution ," OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria said in a statement.

The OECD's efforts to stamp out tax evasion gained prominence this year when a summit of the Group of 20 economic powers on the world financial crisis pushed hard to reform banking secrecy, seen as an aid to tax cheats.

"For decades it has been possible for taxpayers to hide income and assets from the taxman by abusing bank secrecy and other impediments to information exchange," Gurria said.

"What these developments show is that this will no longer be possible."