Swiss parliament rejects US deal on UBS tax data transfer

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Switzerland's parliament on Tuesday rejected a deal to hand over details of UBS clients suspected of tax evasion to US tax authorities.

Lawmakers of the lower house of parliament voted against the accord, with 104 votes against and 76 in favour, following a debate broadcast live on Swiss television.

Switzerland, the US and UBS had agreed in August 2009 that the bank would reveal the identities of about 4,450 American clients in a landmark out-of-court settlement for a US tax-evasion case which challenged Switzerland's sacrosanct banking secrecy.

But the deal had to be put to parliament for endorsement after a court ruling earlier this year called its legal basis in Switzerland into question.

After Tuesday's negative vote, the deal would return to the senate, which last week approved the deal.

Depending on the upper house's decision, the accord could then be put forward again to the lower chamber.

To secure a deal, a compromise would have to be found with the country's biggest party -- the far right Swiss People's Party -- as well as the Socialist Party, both of which have set conditions for their support.

The People's Party said its vote would be secured if taxes on bonuses in the banking industry were rejected, and if the government's authority on signing future accords with states were limited.

Socialists meanwhile are asking for the opposite -- a tax on wages and bonuses above one million Swiss francs (720 million euros), as well as regulations on banks' capital.

© 2010 AFP

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