Swiss hold firm despite German tax deal ‘no’ vote
The Swiss government said on Friday it would continue to push for an agreement with Germany over the thorny issue of tax evasion after the upper house of the German parliament voted down a proposed deal.
“Switzerland remains prepared to bring the ratification process with Germany to a successful conclusion,” Swiss president Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said after the Bundesrat blocked the proposed tax deal between Bern and Berlin, as was increasingly expected.
In light of Friday’s no-vote, Switzerland’s next best hope of securing support for the proposal in Germany is if a parliamentary conciliation committee is convened there comprising members of the lower and upper chambers.
But the outcome of such a committee meeting “remains to be seen,” the Swiss Federal government said in a statement.
The Swiss Banking Association, meanwhile, expressed its “disappointment at the (German) decision” and said the Bundesrat had “missed an excellent opportunity to adopt a fair solution” for both countries that would have “put an end to the fiscal dispute” between them.
Under the terms of the deal, Swiss banks would have deducted taxes from German clients and transferred the tax revenues to Berlin — thus allowing the clients to remain anonymous.
Despite getting the backing of Germany’s lower house of parliament — the Bundestag — in an earlier vote, critics of the bill in the upper house that represents the country’s 16 states said it was too soft on tax-dodgers.
In a bid to generate support for a “yes” vote, Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble had estimated that the agreement could net his country around 10 billion euros ($12.8 billion) in tax payments.
If ratified, the tax deal would have taken effect on January 1, entailing taxation rates of between 21 and 41 percent on German assets held in Switzerland.
There are no obstacles to ratification on Switzerland’s side, Bern said in a statement, given that the Swiss parliament had approved the agreement in June.
Switzerland, Bern added, has reached similar deals with Austria and Britain and is in discussions with Greece and Italy on the so-called “Rubik” accords.