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Swiss Lower House Votes to Debate Provision on U.S. Tax Accord

Feb. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Switzerland’s lower house voted to enter a debate on an amendment to a 2009 double-taxation agreement with the U.S. allowing so-called group requests in cases of suspected tax evasion.

The amendment will allow U.S. authorities to obtain data on groups of American clients holding Swiss bank accounts without knowing their identities. While the debate continues on Monday, the vote suggests the amendment will be approved, according to officials and lawmakers in the Swiss capital, Bern.

“The vote clearly indicates that the lower house will eventually also approve the amendment,” Parliament spokeswoman Marie-Jose Portmann said in a telephone interview.

Switzerland and the U.S. are holding talks to resolve an investigation involving 11 Swiss financial firms after the Department of Justice indicted Wegelin & Co. on Feb. 2 for allegedly helping customers hide money from the Internal Revenue Service. The amendment would “significantly increase” the amount of client data eligible for administrative assistance, the Swiss government said last week.

There were 116 lawmakers in favor of entering the debate on the amendment with 51 against and eight abstentions. The Swiss People’s Party voted against the debate.

“After the decision to enter into the debate, it’s all but sure that the government proposal will be adopted on Monday,” said Ada Marra, a lawmaker for the Swiss Social Democrats.

To contact the reporter on this story: Klaus Wille in Zurich at kwille@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dylan Griffiths at dgriffiths1@bloomberg.net

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