Switzerland has not offered a financial settlement to end a U.S. tax investigation into a number of Swiss banks but remains willing to hand over bank client names as part of any deal, a government spokesman said on Friday.
The government has been in talks with U.S. authorities for months over a deal to get investigations dropped in return for payment of fines and the transfer of names of clients suspected of tax evasion.
Switzerland reached a deal with the U.S. authorities in 2009 for UBS
Mario Tuor, a spokesman for the Swiss department responsible for international financial affairs, reiterated Switzerland's stance that client names could be transferred under existing double-taxation treaties.
While Switzerland has expressed an interest in widening the talks to include the whole banking sector, Tuor would not comment on a Reuters report that the government had offered a deal for the country's more than 300 banks.
A U.S. source briefed on the matter said Swiss authorities had proposed a multibillion-dollar settlement to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to cover all its banks.
Michael Ambuehl, Switzerland's state secretary for the finance ministry and the country's chief negotiator on international tax matters, was due to leave Washington on Thursday after days of talks with IRS officials.
DEAL BY YEAR END?
Finance minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf was reported to have said talks with the United States had intensified and she expected a deal soon on the basis of existing double-taxation agreements.
I assume that we will find a solution by the end of the year, she told the weekly Bilanz, adding Switzerland would continue to refuse any so-called 'fishing expeditions', or broad requests for bank client data with little evidence.
But parliament should deal with a government proposal to allow U.S. authorities to request help finding names of suspected tax dodgers based on defined behavioural patterns in its December session, she told Bilanz.
Credit Suisse said earlier this week it had taken a provision of 295 million Swiss francs (208 million pounds) for settling the U.S. investigation, suggesting a deal might be near. It said the final settlement might exceed the current provision.
Swiss bank secrecy, which helped the country become the world's biggest offshore banking centre with $2 trillion in assets, has come under fire in recent years from cash-strapped governments clamping down on tax evasion.
Switzerland has agreed to do more to help other countries hunt tax cheats, recently securing deals with Britain and Germany to regularise untaxed accounts.
(Writing by Emma Thomasson)