Switzerland signs OECD tax convention

Several countries signed the tax convention at a ceremony in May; Switzerland got on board on Monday Flickr/OECD

Switzerland on Monday signed the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) convention, which allows for the exchange of tax information upon request, joining all major countries worldwide in addressing tax evasion.

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Stefan Flückiger, Swiss ambassador to the OECD, signed the treaty on mutual administrative assistance in tax matters at the organisation’s headquarters in Paris. Flückiger said that Switzerland has been committed to complying with international standards in tax matters since March 2009.

“The signing of the Convention confirms Switzerland's commitment to the global fight against tax fraud and tax evasion with a view to safeguarding the integrity and reputation of the country's financial centre,” Flückiger said on Monday.

The convention provides for all forms of mutual assistance including exchange on request, spontaneous tax examinations abroad, simultaneous tax examinations and assistance in tax collection, while protecting taxpayers’ rights, the OECD said. Automatic exchange of data is possible under the convention but requires additional agreements between the states involved.

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said Switzerland’s adherence to the Convention “sends a clear and strong signal that Switzerland is part of the community of states which consider international tax co-operation as a necessity”.

On October 9, the Swiss cabinet decided to sign the tax cooperation convention. Finance minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said at the time that the convention put together by the OECD and the Council of Europe is, in effect, already a global standard.

In Switzerland, the convention will still have to be submitted for consultation before heading for ratification by parliament. It could also potentially go to a nationwide vote before being implemented.

Almost 60 countries including the G20 member states have signed the convention and about 30 countries are already applying its statutes.

Offshore centres like Luxemburg and Singapore signed the treaty in May, while principalities like Liechtenstein, Andorra and Monaco have not yet agreed to it. In addition, former British Crown dependencies like Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man as well as overseas territories like Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands have not signed the convention yet.

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