Swiss Government Still in Talks to Solve U.S. Tax Dispute

Switzerland said it’s still negotiating with the U.S. to resolve a dispute over untaxed assets held by American clients in Swiss bank accounts.

“The government was yesterday informed about the status of the negotiations with the U.S. on a solution for dealing with the past,” Andre Simonazzi, a Swiss government spokesman, said today in an e-mailed statement. “It will take up discussions again when it knows the final result of the negotiations.”

Switzerland has been in talks with the U.S. for almost two years in a bid to settle an investigation by the Department of Justice of at least 11 financial firms, including Credit Suisse Group AG and Julius Baer Group Ltd., for allegedly helping Americans hide money from the Internal Revenue Service. Switzerland, the world’s biggest center for cross-border wealth, is trying to shed its image as a haven for undeclared assets.

Swiss television and radio station RTS yesterday reported that the government was holding a meeting to discuss the text of a U.S. accord, which would require banks to hand over client data and pay a fine totaling “several billions of francs.”

UBS AG, the biggest Swiss bank, avoided prosecution in 2009 by paying $780 million, admitting it fostered tax evasion and giving the IRS data on more than 250 accounts. It later turned over data on 4,450 more accounts. Settling the current Justice Department probe may involve Swiss banks negotiating separate deferred prosecution agreements with U.S. authorities.

Wegelin & Co., the oldest Swiss private bank, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court in January to conspiring to help hide more than $1.2 billion in assets from the IRS, while opening undeclared accounts for at least 70 U.S. taxpayers who were former UBS clients. The bank, which paid $74 million to resolve the investigation, closed its doors after 272 years.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.