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Swiss banking secrecy unravels one year after it officially ended

One year ago, the Federal Tax Administration (FTA), the Swiss tax agency, officially started exchanging bank account data with tax authorities in other countries for the first time.
Twelve months on and Switzerland has shared financial account information with a further 63 partner countries, the FTA said on Monday.

Among these countries are a number of Caribbean states, including Barbados, Grenada and St Kitts and Nevis. Following the UK and US, the Caribbean has the largest amount of foreign funds parked with Swiss banks.

Other countries where data was exchanged under the Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) include India. It is estimated by the Swiss National Bank that India deposits account for 0.07% of the total aggregate foreign client funds held with Switzerland-based banks.

However, the largest exchange was with Germany, the FTA said, though it was not able to disclose information on the size of financial assets.

The exchanged information includes identification data, account and financial information, as well as information concerning the financial institution, account balance and capital. The FTA received this information from 7,500 Swiss financial institutions (banks, trusts, insurers, etc.).

Overall, the FTA sent information on around 3.1 million financial accounts and received information on around 2.4 million.

Recipient countries will soon be sifting through the data to verify whether their taxpayers have correctly declared financial accounts abroad in their tax returns. This data can help build prosecution cases where they have failed to do so.

However, the FTA said that it had suspended the information exchange with Bulgaria following a leak of four million Bulgarian and foreign taxpayers’ financial account details.

The Bulgarian National Revenue Agency was hacked in July, prompting the suspension. “Individuals with tax residence in Switzerland holding financial accounts in Bulgaria and individuals with tax residence in Bulgaria with financial accounts in Switzerland were affected by the disruption,” the FTA said in a statement.

A further 12 countries sent Switzerland information, while it withheld account data as “those countries do not yet meet the international requirements on confidentiality and data security…or because they chose not to receive data”, the FTA said.

These countries included Belize, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Curaçao, Montserrat, Romania, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Cyprus, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands.

The data exchanges take place nine months after the start of the year, meaning the next exchange takes place in September 2020. This will include data exchanges with around 90 countries, including Azerbaijan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Oman and Turkey.

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