A group behind the initiative “yes to the protection of the private sphere” has handed in signatures to force a nationwide vote on maintaining banking secrecy for domestic private bank clients.
Made up of members of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, centre-right Radical Party and Christian Democratic Party – as well as the Association of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and the Homeowners’ Association – the group seeks to anchor the protection of domestic Swiss banking secrecy in the country’s constitution. In doing so, it wants to ban the automatic exchange of client data within Switzerland’s borders.
The group argues that instead of automatic transfer, the courts should be the ones to decide whether Swiss citizens’ bank information is sent to the tax authorities. In this sense, supporters seek to expand the power of the courts: currently, banks can only pass information to legal authorities in cases of proven tax fraud. The initiative seeks to allow reasonable suspicion of a tax crime to allow a client’s information to be sent to the courts.
On this point, cabinet is set to address the concerns raised by the initiative, as it instructed the finance ministry in July to draw up a revision of the Swiss fiscal code to address tax evasion issues.
Currently, cantonal authorities are only allowed to see bank details for suspected tax evaders in severe cases and if a court or other authority has authorised them to do so.
For its part, the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) said guaranteeing financial privacy is a real concern; however, it does not support the initiative, finding it “inexpedient”.
The SBA found a separate constitutional amendment was unnecessary, since the protection of privacy is already protected under Swiss law.
In addition, the association argues the initiative would continue to allow for simple tax evasion, which goes against the tenets of a tax-compliant financial sector.
One hundred thousand signatures are required to bring an initiative to a nationwide vote. The signatures gathered will now be counted and verified, and if the initiative is found to be valid, a vote date will be announced in future.
swissinfo.ch and agencies