Swiss banks under pressure to disclose client affairs

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It is the first large-scale request for assistance with tax-related banking information that Switzerland has received from a country other than the United States.
The Swiss Federal Tax Administration (FTA) has received a request from Dutch authorities to disclose sensitive information on a large number of UBS bank account holders residing in the Netherlands as part of a tax investigation.

The request concerns data on UBS accounts held by Netherlands residents who did not demonstrate compliance with Dutch tax authorities from February 2013 to December 2014. The information disclosure request was originally received earlier in July 2015, but was made public only last week.

As a result of the Tax Administrative Assistance Act 2014, the Dutch request is made possible, as the Act modifies the banking secrecy regulations in an effort to make it easier to catch tax evaders, with the exchange of financial information.

Switzerland’s long-protected banking secrecy laws in the past made it impossible for countries to file such broad requests revealing possible tax evaders.

In an interview in the French-language newspaper Le Temps, several experts voiced concern that the Dutch request was so broad and unprecise it amounted to a ‘fishing expedition’. It is worth noting that general enquiries are not supported by the revised Act.

A spokesman for the Swiss finance ministry has explained that no decision has yet been taken on whether to grant the petition.