Sunday 7 February 2010

Hot tax row between Germany and Switzerland

Here are only a few samples of what has become front page news in Germany, generating hundreds of newspaper articles. Deutsche Welle reports that a number of offers have been made to German authorities on Swiss banking data, although buying stolen data is also politically controversial in Germany: Luft für Steuersünder wird dünner (6 February 2010). basically tells the same story, adding a few details: Steuerdaten – jetzt prüft auch Bayern (7 February 2010).

According to Welt Online the meagre public information about stolen bank data was sufficient to start a wave of self-incriminatory reports to German tax authorities. About 50 tax evaders had already given themselves in: Verwirrspiel mit System (7 February 2010).

If the story is big in Germany, in Switzerland the breach of the sacred banking secrecy and the potential loss of banking business for wealthy clients has reached almost existential proportions. On 6 and 7 February NZZ Online was practically dominated by different aspects of the issue:

Wiederstand gegen Handel mit gestohlenen Daten regt sich

Auch bayerische Behörden auf der Spur von Steuersündern

Neue CD mit Bankdaten aufgetaucht

„Wir müssen den Mut haben, solchen Fragen jetzt zu stellen“(interesting interview with Hans-Rudolf Merz, Minister of Finance, weighing Switzerland’s responses to the mounting pressure: OECD double taxation agreements; cost of market access versus defiance of EU norms)

„Bern hat den Kopf verloren“ (Konrad Hummler, President of Swiss Private Bankers‘ Association accuses the government of losing ist head)

Wolfgang Schäuble: „Das Bankgeheimnis ist am Ende“ (German Finance Minister ringing the death knell of banking secrecy)

„ Drakonische Strafen – Gewalttäter sind besser dran als Steuersünder (draconic justice for tax fraudsters in Germany – worse than for violent robbers)

Nun droht ein Banksterben (the less than rosy future of a banking sector dependent on market access and business globally)

Ralf Grahn

P.S. If the EU member states continue to pursue their narrow interests in foreign, security and defence policies, the face marginalisation in global affairs.

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