“The scandal of secret swiss bank account” - so was the title of an article in the very honourable Time Magazine in March 1970. Since then the myth of the Swiss banking secrecy has never lost its attraction and topicality. After fighting
Around the Swiss banking secrecy entwine a lot of myths especially abroad but as well in
Banking secrecy refers in
But the last-mentioned case is seen by most of the other countries as performing only lip-service and as a thorn in their side. The crux of the matter is the principle of equivalence. That means that the duty to give evidence and information to foreign authorities must not go beyond the corresponding duty to the Swiss authorities. Since the domestic duty of evidence and information is highly constricted the principle of equivalence matters a lot. Art. 3 paragraph 3 IRSG (Swiss law with regard to the judicial assistance) regulates that no judicial assistance is to be given in case of an evasion of taxes. But the Swiss authorities have the right to obtain bank information in case of a tax fraud (tax evasion combined with falsification of documents). This relies on the fact that contrary to other laws (for example, German law) Swiss law does not prosecute a simple tax evasion. The taxpayer is given a leap of faith when they hand in tax documents. If tax evasion is revealed he just has to pay the taxes he “forgot” and will be fined.
This gives foreign taxpayer whose countries have a stricter law the opportunity to “park” amounts of money into trusts, offshore companies and bank accounts, protected by the bank secrecy. If this can be assessed as criminal support of tax evasion or even of tax fraud is judged controversial the last decades. New is the significance of the reproaches brought in action by the
For years, the US Senate has been conducting its own detailed inquiries into the issue of tax evasion. Senators have summoned key representatives of the industry, including tax advisors, accountants, lawyers and bankers, to the Capitol in
Political conflict is also on the horizon. An aggressive bill to combat tax evasion, the "Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act," was introduced in the US Congress last year. The legislation provides for tough measures against 34 tax havens, including
But: generally Swiss bank secrecy is an expression of an historically developed state system which treats the citizen as sovereign and provides a direct insight into the financial circumstances of the tax payers only by probable cause. The state's interests are preserved by a withholding tax which punishes tax evasion without revealing the names of those involved. But the advantages are badly communicated and it is for sure that abuse has to be prevented.
CH-8001 Zurich, Switzerland