Switzerland is withholding its signature on a new convention on mutual administrative assistance in tax matters because it wants to “keep all options open”, Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann has told journalists in Paris.
However, the Swiss government will think about joining, he said.
The agreement drawn up by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provides for the automatic exchange of information between states in tax matters. It was signed by a further 12 countries on Wednesday.
Among the latest signatories are Austria, Luxembourg and Singapore, all of whom are traditionally as wary as Switzerland about fiscal cooperation.
In all, about 60 states have signed: not only the major European countries and the United States, but also territories with a reputation for opacity, such as Belize, Malta and several Caribbean islands.
Anne Césard, spokeswoman of the Swiss State Secretariat for International Financial Matters (SIF), was quoted in Thursday’s edition of the French language newspaper Le Temps as saying that the government still had to define its position “which must respect Swiss law”.
However, Xavier Oberson, professor of Swiss and international tax law at the University of Geneva, told the same newspaper that “Switzerland is being overtaken by other countries, like Singapore, which it expected to adopt much more restrictive policies”.
He explained Swiss reticence by the requirement to provide assistance in recovering the money and the multilateral nature of the agreement.
“I don’t rule it out that Switzerland will end up signing, but the number of outstanding dossiers and the limited amount of human resources force it to set priorities,” he said.
swissinfo.ch and agencies