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Banking secrecy

Switzerland confirms India’s data sharing request

By Anand Chandrasekhar

Switzerland has confirmed receiving a request from India to join the Early Adopter Group for automatic exchange of financial account information.

This complements the statement made on Tuesday by the Minister of State for Finance Nirmala Sitharaman in the Rajya Sabha (upper house of India’s parliament).

"The finance minister [wrote] a letter to the Swiss finance minister on August 1, 2014, inviting Switzerland to join the Early Adopter Group to the new global standards,” she had stated, according to The Economic Times.

India is already a member of the Early Adopter Group and is pushing to repatriate its tax evaders’ undeclared overseas funds in Switzerland.

However, it is unlikely that Switzerland will accept India’s request to join the group anytime soon.

“We cannot be that strict on the timeline because it is the parliament that decides, not the government,” Mario Tuor of the Swiss State Secretariat for International Financial Matters (SIF) told on Wednesday. “We cannot make any commitment without an OK from the parliament.”

Switzerland recently endorsed the declaration on automatic exchange of information published by the OECD in May 2014. This includes adopting at some point in the future a new global standard for automatic exchange of financial account information. This standard will give tax administrations around the world a very powerful new tool to tackle cross-border tax evasion and non-compliance.

However, Switzerland has not signed up to be a member of the Early Adopter Group of 44 countries, dependencies and overseas territories that have committed to the early implementation of the new global standard.

This group has agreed to an ambitious timetable of facilitating the first exchange of information on new and pre-existing accounts by the end of September 2017.

While amenable to eventually adopting the global standard, Switzerland does not want to be rushed into making commitments on deadlines for its implementation.

“We want to adopt [the global standard] as soon as possible but not with a fixed deadline,” said Tuor.

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