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US state tops Swiss in financial secrecy poll

Delaware in the United States has outranked Switzerland in a survey of the most secretive financial jurisdictions, says a tax justice rights group.

The survey of 60 places and countries rated the tiny state of Delaware first, followed by Luxembourg and then Switzerland, said the Tax Justice Network. The Cayman Islands and Britain rounded off the top five.

The Financial Secrecy Index was drawn up by academics and finance experts and the first results released on Saturday.

It is based on a composite of total offshore activity and measures such as whether a jurisdiction obtains beneficial ownership information about companies and the degree of cooperation in turning over requested financial information.

Switzerland has seen its traditional banking secrecy come under fire this year from the US and more recently, from Italy.

"While the US has been jumping up and down and saying 'Aha, bad, wicked Swiss banks,' the US is doing exactly the same things as far as non-resident bank account holders," Sarah Lewis, executive director of the Tax Justice Network, was quoted on the Reuters news agency as saying.

Delaware is attractive because it does not tax profits realized outside the state and does not require companies to be physically present, added the group.

Swiss non-governmental organisations Alliance Sud, which is an umbrella group of development organisations, and the Berne Declaration – both founder members of the London-based Tax Justice Network – said Switzerland's third place was "nothing to be proud of".

"Switzerland has to understand this index both as an encouragement to take part in international efforts in favour of increased transparency in financial centres and as another reason to continue the efforts it has started," said Mark Herkenrath, a financial expert at Alliance Sud, in a statement on Sunday.

The unequal treatment of developing countries in terms of double taxation agreements had to be stopped, he added.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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