‘Swiss are equipped for automatic info exchange’

Michel Duclos (right) with Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter

Switzerland is heading “irreversibly” towards the automatic exchange of tax information, according to the French ambassador to Switzerland.

This content was published on June 2, 2013 minutes and agencies

Michel Duclos told the Swiss News Agency he was convinced that Switzerland was “equipped” for this step – should it decide to take it – and had the ability to adapt and bounce back. He added, however, that the country couldn’t expect any compensation.

“In a globalised world, you can’t choose between what you like and what you don’t like. This goes for the automatic exchange of information as well as the discussions between Switzerland and the European Union over corporate tax,” he said.

On Thursday, Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann said on the margins of an OECD (Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development) conference in Paris that Switzerland was withholding its signature on a new convention on mutual administrative assistance in tax matters because it wants to “keep all options open”.

Among the latest signatories were Austria, Luxembourg and Singapore, all of whom are traditionally as wary as Switzerland about fiscal cooperation.

Regular contact

Duclos, who has been France’s man in Bern since July 2012, described relations between the two countries as “in all aspects very intensive and good”.

He pointed out that at least five Swiss cabinet members had this year met their French counterparts. “There are not many countries with whom we have such regular contact at this level.”

He admitted, however, that even if there was a good foundation, “the atmosphere could still be improved”, saying that sometimes there was simply a lack of mutual consideration.

For example, he said the Swiss generally see the debate about an agreement on inheritance tax as an “expression of French imperialism”. “But for two years we’ve been discussing a formulation with the aim of finding the best solution”.

He said that, contrary to what is often heard in Switzerland, France hadn’t terminated a 1953 Franco-Swiss inheritance tax accord but in 2011 merely indicated that it would like to pull out because the accord “no longer corresponded to current law”.

Switzerland had then insisted on renegotiating the accord in order to avoid a legal loophole, something the French had agreed to. The final wording should appear soon, he said.

EU pressure

As for the idea of EU pressure on Switzerland, Duclos diplomatically believed the negotiating conditions concerning the corporate tax talks were constantly improving, “so that joint solutions are within reach”.

Previously, the EU had said cantonal tax breaks for companies amounted to state subsidies and affected free competition. As such, the EU said they may even violate the free trade agreement concluded in 1972 between Switzerland and the EU.

“The talks have gone on for years,” Duclos smiled. “That means we’re not in such a hurry.”

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