July 20 (Bloomberg) -- Switzerland will join the global campaign to clamp down on tax evasion by sharing bank clients’ data if other major financial centers agree to reciprocate, Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said.
“In the discussions about automatically sharing bank data, I insisted on full reciprocity,” Widmer-Schlumpf said today in Moscow, where she attended a meeting of Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers. “The U.S. has quite different views. There remains some work to be done.”
Banking secrecy has been enshrined in the nation’s law since 1934, helping Switzerland become the world’s most important offshore financial hub, according to a 2012 report by Boston Consulting Group Inc. It has faced pressure from the European Union to join a system of automatic exchange of bank-account data.
Widmer-Schlumpf last month took the unprecedented step of announcing that Switzerland may go along with the global initiative if the standard was recognized and implemented by other major financial centers.
At least 12 Swiss banks, including Credit Suisse Group AG and Julius Baer Group Ltd., are under investigation in the U.S. for allegedly helping wealthy Americans cheat on their taxes.
Widmer-Schlumpf said in June the government would hold detailed discussions in the coming months on the topic of automatic data exchange, a step proposed by a group of academics and government officials. A change in Swiss law would have to be approved in a referendum.
The Swiss parliament last month rejected a bill that would have given banks special permission to hand over information to the U.S.
Switzerland has also been at odds with the 28-nation bloc over the preferential tax treatment given to multinationals, and had until the end of June to offer a solution or face reprisals. The Swiss government said in May it would stop differentiating between foreign and domestic income. Instead, in a bid to remain attractive to corporations such as Procter & Gamble Co. and Trafigura Beheer BV, it will introduce new tax exemptions and cantonal governments may cut tax rates on profits. More details on the Swiss plan are due later this year.
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