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Tax assistance to be enshrined in law

The government has called for a new law governing administrative assistance on tax matters in line with international standards.

Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said the bill - for parliament to discuss – was aimed at enshrining rules on the exchange of information pertaining to account holders, as applied in double taxation agreements (DTAs) with other countries.

The cabinet insists on the principle that administrative assistance will only be provided upon request in individual cases. Collective applications are ruled out.

No assistance will be granted if a request is based on stolen data or other acts punishable under Swiss law, Widmer-Schlumpf added.

Following a decision by the government in March 2009 to ease banking secrecy, Switzerland adapted or negotiated more than 30 double taxation agreements, granting international legal assistance not only in cases of tax fraud, but also for tax evasion and fiscal assessments.

At a news conference on Wednesday Widmer-Schlumpf also announced the cabinet was seeking to renegotiate a DTA with neighbouring Italy amid a spat over blocked assets of Italian cross-border workers in Switzerland.

The authorities in canton Ticino bordering Italy last week decided to freeze about SFr30 million ($35.7 million) worth of tax revenue owed to the cross-border workers.

The move is seen as an attempt to pressure the federal government to negotiate more favourable conditions.

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