German clients of two leading Swiss banks have been warned that they must either produce evidence of having paid their taxes or come clean with the tax authorities within the next few months if they want to keep their accounts.
Credit Suisse and the private Julius Baer bank confirmed to the Swiss News Agency reports in Saturday’s Tages-Anzeiger and Der Bund newspapers that they had written to their German clients asking them to provide documents to prove that they had declared their holdings.
“We are advising our German clients to look at their situation and to regularise it if necessary,” said CS spokesman Marc Dosch. Otherwise the bank will stop doing business with them.
This applies not only to recently opened accounts, but also to ones that have been held for decades.
Julius Baer spokesman Jan Vonder Mühll reminded the news agency that it had already announced such a policy back in February when the German parliament refused to ratify a tax deal reached between the two governments.
For its part, UBS, Switzerland’s biggest bank, was quoted in the newspapers as saying it had sent an "unmistakable demand" to its clients. It told the news agency that it had been telling its clients for a long time that they should “regularise their tax situation if necessary”.
However, spokeswoman Dominique Scheiwiller said the bank did not intend to set a timetable.
The Swiss government put forward a “white money” strategy in February, which is currently being discussed by interested parties who will submit their comments by the middle of June.
Among its provisions are that banks and other financial intermediaries should refuse to accept new clients if they suspect they have not met their tax obligations.
As far as existing clients are concerned, the government is not calling for systematic checks, but says they should be made in cases where suspicions arise about a client’s tax status.
The Swiss Bankers’ Association has said its members are willing to be more careful about new money that they accept, but are strongly against checking old assets and breaking off relations with existing customers.
Reward and punishment
The Tages-Anzeiger explained that in Germany clients who come clean will escape punishment, although they can expect to have to pay the tax authorities between one quarter and one third of the money they have attempted to hide.
It said that in France, on the other hand, anyone who tries to cheat the tax authorities faces high fines and a prison sentence.
swissinfo.ch and agencies