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Swiss elected to top UN tax post

Robert Waldburger will try to bring international tax issues into sharper focus

(Keystone)

A leading Swiss financial expert has been appointed to a key United Nations commission to coordinate international tax issues.

Robert Waldburger was Switzerland’s chief tax negotiator in the recent treaty with the European Union on savings tax and banking secrecy.

Waldburger, deputy director of the Swiss federal tax administration, has been elected to the UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters.

The 25 members of the group - an ad-hoc committee of the UN Economic and Social Council - are elected by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, after notification of the Council, for a four-year term. This started on July 1, 2005.

The first task of the committee will be to meet in Geneva on December 4.

"We will sit together and talk about what we will work on," Waldburger told swissinfo. "But the subject is obvious – we’ll be discussing international tax matters from all perspectives."

He added they are likely to have to take into account problems of industrialised nations and also developing countries. They will then try to find "fair solutions" to these problems.

Waldburger said the issue of tax evasion "will play an important role but it is not the main focus of the group".

Tough negotiations

The committee members have been drawn from the fields of tax policy and tax administration and reflect a wide and balanced geographical distribution – from Barbados to Qatar.

Faced with such a disparate collection of individuals and interests, Waldburger said reaching a consensus on issues "will be hard work", adding that the main challenge will be "to find solutions in international taxation in today’s changing world".

As for his own role, Waldburger said: "I will try to bring in my academic experience on the one hand and I will also try to defend the position of Switzerland."

Asked to what extent his role as a negotiator between Switzerland and the EU on savings tax has prepared him for working on this committee, he laughed: "That’s for the people who appointed me to decide!"

swissinfo, Thomas Stephens

Key facts

Waldburger helped negotiate the treaty between Switzerland and the European Union on savings tax which came into force on July 1.
He has been deputy director of the Swiss federal tax administration since 1998 and heads the division for international fiscal law and double taxation matters.
He is a professor of fiscal law at St Gallen University, from where he graduated in economics and law.

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In brief

Robert Waldburger, a Swiss tax expert, has been appointed a member of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters.

The 25-member international committee will meet for five days every year in Geneva.

The first meeting will be December 4-9, 2005.

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