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The sad end of a myth

This story has no heroes. At best, sad: How, for example, Hans-Rudolf Merz. 18. In February 2009, the Federal Council decided to allow, by emergency legislation, the UBS the delivery of 255 client names to the US authorities. "Banking secrecy: Only a myth", was the headline in the "Tages-Anzeiger" at the time. Only the then Finance Minister Merz saw it differently: "The banking secrecy is well-founded in law, it is a fact and is enshrined in the Federal Constitution."

four weeks later, Merz had to be back in front of the press. And the Bank were buried in secret, then officially in the most beautiful German officials: "today, The Federal Council decided that Switzerland will adopt the OECD Standard on administrative assistance in tax matters in accordance with Artikel26 of the OECD model Convention." In clear text: The decades amounted to a long separation between tax fraud and tax evasion was history, the Switzerland since foreign tax authorities in cases of suspected tax evasion.

What would have been possible?

ten years Ago, the Swiss Bank secrecy fell. With a sober view on the events, it should be noted that Switzerland has received nothing in return for it: There is neither a comprehensive Amnesty for banks and their customers, banks have to get improved market access in the EU. Would have been possible if the banks and the policy would be timely to change positions? Protagonists and historians are not in agreement.

"in Retrospect, one could then pose the question, what further steps would have to follow," says Patrick Odier, a Partner of the eponymous private Bank, from 2009 to 2016 Chairman of the Swiss bankers Association. "But hindsight is always smarter."

The economic historian Stefan Tobler, whose book "The battle for Swiss banking secrecy" on the 24. April arrives in the shops, is clear: "by 2010 the market would have been at all levels of an institutional link in exchange for the Bank's secret access in the EU may be possible." However, Tobler, and people that were involved in the former processes, point to the fact that it was political to never a majority in favour of a services agreement. A comprehensive package of services was already in 2002 the negotiations with the EU on the contractual package of the Bilateral agreements II in the conversation. According to insiders, the banks were at that time strongly opposed to it. They feared pressure on banking secrecy, and the cantonal banks were afraid of their government guarantee.

Tobler put in perspective: "Would the Switzerland of the EU sooner and the automatic exchange of information (AEOI) for against the services offered, then the risk would have been that a European-limited Regime would have been introduced, without that global Finance would have been involved in places such as the USA or Singapore, and Hong Kong." The result is that Switzerland would have probably lost a solid customer funds. Because at the time the AIA was not on the international Agenda.

agreement failed

to save After the first of the dam in the year 2009, Switzerland has tried, what was to be salvaged. As a pulse generator acted Alfredo Gysi, the former President of the foreign banks. He is considered the father of the withholding tax agreement. The concept included a one-time, anonymous retrospective taxation of old money. Also, in the future, banks should pay a tax on the current income of their customers. "I think the withholding tax agreement continue to be for a good compromise between confidentiality and Tax compliance," says Patrick Odier. Almost the maneuver would be successful: the United Kingdom and Austria mouthfuls, the German Federal government also concluded such an agreement.

But Norbert Walter-Borjans, Finance Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, of which the tax inspectors were targeted to buy stolen Bank data, organized the resistance. At the end of 2012, the agreement in the German Bundesrat, the representation of the Federal States failed.

His victory was anything but certain, says Walter-Borjans, today: "to Me, it would be, without a doubt, harder to like, to keep the rows for the tough stance closed, if Switzerland had renounced for the future of the anonymity." Say, would have sought, Switzerland only a past solution, instead of Bank secrecy in the future, rescue would have passed the Deal maybe.

"I can quite imagine that it would have been on the part of the EU's greater openness for the improvement of market access, if Switzerland had earlier introduced a proactive Bank secrecy as a matter of negotiation," said the SPD politician.

Billion-dollar buses

With the " no " out of Berlin, the concept of a withholding tax agreement was dead. 2014 a buckled Switzerland again and accepted the automatic exchange of information. By the end of 2018, the first customer fin of data from Switzerland. And only the United States succeeded, to a General agreement for the banks to control the tax past to complete. This was ultimately more a dictation of the United States as a negotiating success. Around 4.5 billion Swiss francs buses paid by Swiss banks. "Switzerland has to occur problems in order to anticipate developments and be closed", to analyze Stakeholders behind closed doors. Now, the myth of banking secrecy is history.

(editing Tamedia)

Created: 17.04.2019, 22:20 PM

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