Switzerland dropped a proposal that would have obliged the country’s banks to force wealthy clients to make declarations on the tax status of their assets.
“There is no self-declaration obligation,” according to a statement today from the Swiss government, which will discuss revisions to its so-called white-money strategy on Dec. 19.
Swiss banks lobbied against a government proposal in March that would have required them to reject deposits from clients who don’t disclose the origin of their funds and attest to their tax compliance. The banks said that would have scared off millionaire customers, threatening jobs and undermining Switzerland’s competitiveness.
Switzerland is trying to shed its image as a tax haven as the U.S. probes whether banks including Credit Suisse Group AG and Julius Baer Group Ltd. helped Americans evade taxes. Adopting tougher disclosure standards before other countries may have pushed more clients to withdraw funds from the world’s biggest center for cross-border wealth.
“No bank in the world can be made responsible for the tax-compliance of its clients,” said the Swiss Bankers Association, which has 350 members, including UBS AG and Credit Suisse. The Basel-based SBA welcomed the government’s move to make self-declarations voluntary.
While Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf declined to give exact details of the new due diligence requirements, other recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force will be implemented.
“Serious tax offenses will be qualified as predicate offenses for money laundering in future,” the government said.