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Tax evasion, tax fraud, tomato, tomahto

It looks like Switzerland is joining the rest of the world when it comes to tax evasion.

Switzerland, unlike the United States and many other countries, differentiates between tax fraud and tax evasion. While fraud is illegal, evasion isn't a crime.

Ubs building (2) That's produced some problems of late.Those secretive Swiss have seen the financial services giant UBS come under global criticism for its secret accounts opened by individuals solely for the alleged purpose of evading their own countries' taxes.

On the U.S. front, the Swiss company is facing lawsuits from both U.S. tax investigators wanting open books and American clients arguing their promised privacy continue to be protected.

Now however, Switzerland has decided to, as the New York Times phrases it, "move toward a more rigid definition of tax evasion and help global authorities pursue tax cheats."

The Swiss change of heart and policy comes on the heels of similar about-faces by two other European tax haven nations, Liechtenstein and Andorra.

What a difference a definition makes: Switzerland, unlike the United States and many other countries, distinguishes between tax fraud and tax evasion, and does not consider tax evasion to be a crime.

Now, however, Switzerland will cooperate with other nations' authorities who are investigating tax evasion and, under certain circumstances, will hand over data on accounts at banks based within its borders.

More importantly, the tax haven countries' decision to adopt the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development definition of tax evasion will get them off the OECD's blacklist. The country was placed last week on the group's list of "uncooperative tax havens."

If Switzerland remained on the blacklist, said Swiss finance minister Hans-Rudolf Merz at a press conference announcing the policy change, it would hurt not only the banking sector, but also the country's whole economy.

Secret but legal: If you have a secret Swiss bank account but aren't using it to illegally hide income from the IRS, don't worry.

"The privacy of foreign clients not under suspicion will continue to be protected by Swiss bank-client confidentiality," the Swiss Bankers Association said on Friday. "An automatic exchange of information is excluded."

It is also commonly-accepted international practice for re-negotiated double taxation treaties not to be backdated in their application, notes the Swiss banking group's statement. This is of great importance to banks in their role as guardians of their clients' financial interests.

Court implications: So does the banking group's official position indicate that it still intends to honor client secrecy with regard to accounts in question before Switzerland announced its change of policy?

If so, what will that mean to UBS? It is facing a Department of Justice lawsuit seeking information on the accounts of suspected U.S. tax evaders, as well as a subsequent legal action initiated by those clients to retain the pledge of bank secrecy.

Any international tax lawyers or experts out there, please let us know your take on the situation.

spanish_prisoner_dvd Financial film note: One of my my favorite films, The Spanish Prisoner, employs a secret Swiss bank account as a plot device. Check it out, not only for the global financial tidbit, but also to see Steve Martin in a different kind of role.

And the music in the movie is pretty darn good, too.

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Tax Evasion

Switzerland have always been the neutral power of the world.That`s probably why their banking system is so safe. The tax evasion issue is like a misconception for them.


The USA cannot bow to the wishes of the EU and their high tax regimes. the reason why they want the Swiss banks out of the picture is so they can raise taxes. Soon, we will follow. Those rich people would gladly pay some taxes. But not when the taxes are spent by a bunch of liberal baffoons.
The other banks in the world should emulate the Swiss, not try to destroy them. If all countries were "tax havens", the citizens would keep their money at home.
All these high tax liberal socialist countries would rather destroy the Swiss banks than to COMPETE with them. What happened to the US competitive spirit. Our desire to be competitive has been the reason why we are so great. Let's COMPETE with the Swiss. Let's have an incentive for our US citizens to keep their money in the USA. Let's beat the Swiss at their own game.
Senator Levin spent years trying to force the Swiss to give up the names of US citizens that have accounts at Swiss banks. If he would have spent all that time and our taxpayer money finding ways to COMPETE with them, we wouldn't be talking about it today .And besides that, let the USA once and for
all quit meddling in the affairs of another country.
If the Swiss have no privacy, look for a WORLD WIDE SURGE IN TAXES

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