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Switzerland falls short of intl tax standards

Switzerland falls short of international transparency standards, says Global Forum

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The Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes is a multilateral framework tasked with monitoring and reviewing the implementation of international standards of transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes.

In its review, published yesterday, a number of shortcomings were identified relating to the availability and exchange of information in Switzerland.

The review said the country had "fallen short of the standard" in respect of bearer savings books which, although being phased out, remain in existence in the country. It also found that mechanisms were not systematically in place for ensuring the owners of shares issued by limited companies and SCAs could be identified.

SCA is used in the review as an abbreviation for "societe en commandite par actions" and refers to an entity limited by shares which combine the characteristics of both a limited company and a limited partnership.

Some of the new information exchange agreements recently negotiated by Switzerland were described as not being fully in line with the standard because of an issue concerning the obligations for an exchange of information (EOI) partner to provide certain identity information in their requests.

As a result, in February 2011, the Swiss government announced it would take further steps to ensure those new agreements would be applied consistently with the standard in all regards.

The review also noted a number of positive developments. It said Switzerland’s approach to exchange of information for tax purposes had changed significantly over the past two years, having historically adopted a restrictive approach, and it had made rapid progress to implement its commitment to the internationally agreed standard.

Provided it had brought a significant number of its EOI agreements in line with the standard, Switzerland’s phase two review would proceed in the second half of 2012, it stated.

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