Switzerland and Canada sign new deal on tax evasion

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Switzerland and Canada on Friday signed a new taxation agreement during a visit to Berne by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, weeks after Harper vowed to hunt down tax cheats with Swiss accounts.

Swiss Finance Minister Hans Rudolf Merz and Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Josee Vernier "signed today in Berne a protocol on the convention on dual taxation," Merz's ministry said in a statement.

The agreement is among a series of bolstered bilateral tax deals the Swiss have been signing to fall into line with international OECD standards by granting other countries greater leeway to obtain information on secret Swiss bank accounts in tax cases.

Harper, who is on his way to a summit of francophone nations in Switzerland, attended the signing ceremony during a working visit to Berne.

On September 30, he said the Canadian government "will continue to go aggressively after tax evaders," after Canada's Revenue Agency received information on more than 1,000 Canadians with accounts in Geneva.

"If Canadians are using Swiss bank accounts to avoid paying taxes in Canada, these citizens will face the full force of the law," he told the House of Commons.

During talks between Harper and Swiss ministers, "the subjects of international governance and new rules and standards for finance and trade were also raised," the Swiss government said.

Canada currently chairs the Group of Eight industrialised countries, whose members ramped up pressure on Switzerland last year to help stamp out tax evasion.

The revised bilateral tax deal, which has to be ratified by parliament, is expected to come into effect in 2012.

© 2010 AFP

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