Swiss minister urges debate on tax data: report

  @ibtimes on February 07 2010 12:24 PM

Switzerland must consider the automatic exchange of tax information with European Union governments if Swiss banks are to have unlimited access to EU markets, the country's finance minister said in an interview published on Sunday.

If we want such a (financial services) agreement, we have to be prepared to take on European rules -- and Europe has the automatic exchange of information, Hans-Rudolf Merz was quoted saying in an interview with newspaper NZZ am Sonntag.

At some point we have to hold this discussion, he said.

Germany has said it is prepared to pay an informant for data on clients of Swiss banks who may have been using secret accounts to evade German taxes, opening up wounds in Switzerland's bank secrecy laws and delivering a fresh blow to the country's massive private banking industry.

Switzerland relaxed its bank secrecy rules under international pressure in 2009, but agreements for the automatic exchange of tax information with foreign authorities would likely be the fatal blow to the cherished laws.

We want to abolish bank secrecy in the European Union. That has implications for Switzerland, said Merz's German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble in a separate interview in the same paper.

I don't believe that Switzerland can keep itself out of the European development in the long run, Schaeuble was quoted saying.

(Writing by Jason Rhodes; Editing by David Holmes)

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