Swiss govt to accept group requests for banking info from Feb

Money

Switzerland will be able to provide banking and other details sought by other countries, including India, from next month about a 'group of persons' even without their individual identification, provided the information has not been requested as part of some 'fishing expedition'.

A new Tax Administrative Assistance Act will come into force on February 1 and a resolution to this effect has been passed by the Switzerland's Federal Council, a senior official in Swiss finance ministry said here.

The development follows intensified global pressure on Swiss authorities in the past couple of years to act against the secrecy walls of Swiss banks, which have been often accused of providing safe haven to illicit wealth from abroad and not sharing the account details citing their client confidentiality provisions.

While the Swiss government provides assistance to those foreign countries with whom it has relevant information exchange or tax treaties, which includes India, but requests for a 'group of persons' not accepted so far.

With the new Tax Administrative Assistance Act (TAAA) coming into force next month, group requests in accordance with the international standards will now be possible as well, said the official who is here for the Annual Meeting of World

Economic Forum.

Such requests would require a detailed description of the actions taken by any Swiss bank's clients "to avoid taxation and must be clearly distinct from fishing expeditions," the Swiss Federal Council has said in its resolution for the TAAA. Fishing expedition is a term used for information requests without concrete indications of tax avoidance or other crimes and is generally undertaken with an aim to find something interesting.

"In accordance with the Ordinance on Administrative Assistance in the Case of Group Requests According to International Tax Agreements, group requests are admissible for information on issues which concern the period of time from when the law entered into force," it added.

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