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EU tax grey list splits Federal Council

Johann Schneider-Ammann listening to Ueli Maurer in May Keystone

It’s “hardly a tragedy” that the European Union has placed Switzerland on a grey list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes, says Finance Minister Ueli Maurer. Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann, on the other hand, says he is “irritated” by the move. 

This content was published on December 10, 2017 - 12:56
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“I rate the significance of the list as negligible,” Maurer said on Sunday in an interview with the Zentralschweiz am Sonntag and the Ostschweiz am Sonntag, adding there was “absolutely no reason” for Switzerland to be on the list. 

The EU’s decision changed “absolutely nothing”, said Maurer, who expected no negative consequences for Switzerland as a financial location. “Switzerland is an ideal location for many foreign companies primarily because of its stability, safety and reliability,” he said. 

On Tuesday, EU finance ministers unveiled two lists of tax havens. The black list of uncooperative tax regimes contains 17 states, mainly well-known offshore tax havens. The EU said the 47 states on the grey list, including Switzerland, “have committed to addressing deficiencies in their tax systems and to meet the required criteria”. 

‘Homework’ 

Johann Schneider-Ammann wasn’t as relaxed as Maurer. He was “irritated”, he told Swiss public radio, SRF, on Saturday that the EU had placed Switzerland om the grey list. 

He said the EU had thereby reminded Switzerland that after Swiss voters in February rejected a comprehensive overhaul of taxation for companies, “the country still has homework to do”. 

“That wouldn’t actually have been necessary, if you ask me,” he said. 

Stitched up by Liechtenstein? 

Switzerland was only added to the grey list at the last minute at neighbouring Liechtenstein’s request, according to a report in the NZZ am Sonntag

It said that on Monday – the day before the list was published – Switzerland didn’t figure on the list, but Liechtenstein did. When Liechtenstein diplomats discovered this, they went to the EU demanding equal treatment for comparable countries, pointing explicitly to Switzerland. EU officials complied, according to the report. 

The NZZ am Sonntag said Ueli Maurer summoned the Liechtenstein ambassador to the finance ministry; the paper cited the finance ministry as saying “it was arbitrary to be put on a grey list like that overnight based on such an intervention by Liechtenstein”. 

The Liechtenstein ambassador denied Liechtenstein had besmirched Switzerland’s name and regretted that both countries were on the list, the paper reported.

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