Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) -- The foreign-affairs committee of the Swiss parliament’s upper house endorsed an amendment today to the new double-taxation agreement with the U.S., paving the way for final approval by the lower house.
The amendment allows for the handover of files on suspected tax offenders to the U.S. in cases where the U.S. authorities don’t know the identities of American holders of Swiss bank accounts and are basing requests for information merely on certain patterns of behavior.
The amendment is intended to clarify the September 2009 accord, the Swiss government said in August, when it asked the upper house to back it. The previous 1996 agreement already allowed the transfer of dossiers in cases where the U.S. doesn’t have the names. While both the U.S. and the Swiss governments said they understood the new treaty would let that continue, the Swiss authorities still said they wanted to obtain parliament’s approval for the clarification.
According to the amendment, Switzerland will only grant administrative assistance in cases where the U.S. tax authorities produce clear evidence of a suspected offense, Eugen David, the president of the committee, told reporters in the capital, Bern. In addition, they must detail the pattern of behavior and explain why they need the information.
There must be evidence of wrongdoing by the Swiss bank where the U.S. client had the account and the mere fact that a U.S. citizen had an account with a Swiss bank isn’t sufficient, David said.
The old treaty allows administrative assistance in cases of “tax fraud or the like.” The new treaty has a broader reach, allowing assistance in cases of tax fraud and tax evasion. To take effect, it still needs backing from the U.S. Senate.
--Editors: Eddie Buckle, Ben Livesey
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