The Swiss government says it intends to begin automatic exchanges of tax data with 20 additional countries in 2019.
Switzerland already has agreed to such exchanges – based on international standards aimed at ensuring that taxpayers pay the right amount of tax to the right jurisdiction – with 38 nations and territories starting in 2018.
Now, the Swiss finance department will begin consulting with 20 more countries to set up the exchanges starting in 2019, the cabinet said in a statement on Thursday.
The new countries to be added are China, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Liechtenstein, Colombia, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Montserrat, Aruba, Curacao, Belize, Costa Rica, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Cook Islands and the Marshall Islands.
“These additional countries will have to respect the principle of speciality and safeguard the confidentiality of the data delivered,” said the cabinet, which added that the exchanges will have “a positive impact on the integrity and competitiveness of Switzerland’s financial centre”.
The agreements are based on the international standard for the exchange of information developed by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a club of 35 mostly wealthy nations.
The Swiss Bankers Association said it favours setting up more exchanges and “expects Switzerland to insist on the OECD criteria and to ensure that the OECD will regularly monitor adherence to these criteria”.
“Should any country not adhere to these rules, the Swiss government must exercise its right and immediately suspend the AEOI (Automatic Exchange of Information) agreement with the country at fault,” it said in a statement.
The Swiss bank lobby also said it would be unacceptable if Switzerland were the only country with an important financial centre to concede to an AEOI agreement with these 20 additional countries.
Non-governmental organisations like Alliance Sud complain there are no such Swiss agreements yet with African countries or poorer economies, which need them the most to avoid financial abuses.
“Automatic financial account information exchange is reserved for a club of rich countries,” the Swiss anti-poverty and justice group has said. “Tax evaders from poor countries will still be able to conceal their money in Swiss accounts in the future.”