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article imageSwiss government weakens bank secrecy to give US officials info

By Leigh Goessl     May 30, 2013 in Business
The Swiss government is reportedly going to allow banks in the nation to share some information with U.S. authorities. U.S. officials want to determine which Americans are using offshore bank accounts to hide their money and avoid taxes.
Many people use Swiss banks to store their money because the financial establishments in the country have long been known for secrecy and discretion. But, it looks like this may be about to change in a big way.
In the near future, information about those on-the-quiet bank accounts overseas may find its way its way to the U.S. government. U.S. authorities have long been trying to get access to information about Swiss bank accounts held by Americans. In recent years, there has been some success from certain banks, however, the U.S. has still been trying to obtain more information about Americans holding bank accounts in the European country.
After negotiation, it appears the Swiss government is going to allow its banks to "reveal some customer information" to U.S. officials, reported CNN Money. This agreement is a big step in settling disputes between the U.S. and Switzerland over tax issues.
Not all information will be shared, but one key piece of info is the amount of "overall holdings of their American clients", reported the Wall Street Journal. Information that will still be difficult for officials to recover from Swiss banks would be names, account numbers and balances.
Some may wonder, after all these years, why is Switzerland relenting now?
"The Swiss banks are looking to save themselves,” Jeffrey Neiman, a former assistant U.S. attorney said, according to the Wall Street Journal. β€œIt’s no longer in their interests to cater to Americans with undeclared accounts.”
Swiss banks have lost some criminal cases due to their assistance in helping people hide their money to avoid taxes.
Swiss Federal Council, the country's executive branch, said in a statement, "If banks were not authorized to cooperate with the U.S. authorities, the initiation of further criminal investigations or charges concerning banking institutions could not be ruled out. The uncertainty for the financial center would continue to exist."
The rules would allow officials to pinpoint where undeclared monies are located, including those banks that the U.S. has not yet targeted for investigation.
The U.S. government is hoping these new rules will pressure Americans into disclosing their Swiss bank accounts to the Internal Revenue Service, indicate media reports. It is hoped the holders of the Swiss accounts will come forward on their own.
The rules will go before Switzerland's parliament sometime this summer.
The WSJ report noted that in addition to the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom have also stepped up their efforts to collect tax revenues from undeclared assets.
More about Swiss banks, Switzerland, Irs, United States, Tax evasion
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