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German minister calls for tax cooperation

German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück has again called on Switzerland and Liechtenstein to help combat tax evasion through cross border accounts.

He said the €130 million (SFr194 million) withholding tax paid by Switzerland to Germany was a "joke", considering experts estimate German taxpayers hold up to €300 billion in Swiss accounts.

In an interview with the German Ruhr-Nachrichten newspaper Steinbrück said tax evasion was not a trivial offence. "We will support Switzerland when it wants to act against tax evaders, but not as long as it does not," he said.

Tax evasion in Switzerland is not a criminal offence, however tax fraud is.

Steinbrück also said that Switzerland and Liechtenstein should afford Germany the same assistance in tax offences as they afford the United States.

Roland Meier, a spokesman for the Swiss finance ministry, said Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz had taken note of Steinbrück's comments. Meier pointed out that tax evasion was also being pursued in Switzerland.

The Swiss spokesman added that the US cases related to alleged tax fraud. The US asked Switzerland for administrative assistance and Switzerland was still in the process of compiling the relevant documents, he said.


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