Swiss makes it easier to track tax cheats

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Switzerland said Tuesday it will make it easier to track down tax cheats by providing assistance to foreign authorities, even if only bank account numbers are provided as means of identification.

"Identifying the taxpayer and the holder of the information is an indispensable prerequisite for the granting of administrative assistance," the Swiss Finance Ministry said in a statement.

"In most cases, this occurs by indicating the name and address. Other means of identification should also be admissible in the future," it added.

"In exceptional cases, this can also occur by indicating the account number."

Until now, Swiss authorities have insisted on having the name and address of an alleged tax evader before providing assistance to foreign authorities.

This requirement was enforced in order to prevent so-called fishing expeditions -- in which foreign authorities sought banking data without first having proof of tax evasion.

The Swiss Finance Ministry said an international review has found that its requirements for administrative assistance remain "too restrictive and could prove to be a possible hindrance to an effective exchange of information."

In order to pass a peer review carried out by the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, and thereby avoid being blacklisted as a tax haven, the government is therefore now moving to ease its restrictions.

"A quick clarification is in the interest of the Swiss workplace," said Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, quoted by Swiss newswire ATS.

© 2011 AFP

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