Swiss Govt to relax rules for assistance in tax evasion cases

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Facing global pressure, Switzerland today decided to relax a key legislation to make it easier to extend help to foreign countries, including India, probing cases of suspected tax crimes.

The proposed revision in Switzerland's Tax Administrative Assistance Act would do away with an existing requirement where all individuals are given prior information before any details about them are shared with a foreign jurisdiction for alleged tax crimes.

Besides, the amendment will make it easier for Swiss authorities to extend help in matters related to 'group requests'.

The revised Act would help India and many other countries who find it difficult to get information from Swiss authorities while probing cases of alleged tax evasion through foreign shores including Switzerland.

This comes at a time when a renewed debate is underway in India about efforts to act against those alleged to have stashed black money in Swiss banks.

In a statement issued from Bern, the Federal Council of Switzerland said that it has "resolved to bring the revised Tax Administrative Assistance Act into force on August 1. 2014".

The Swiss government further said no referendum has been called against the bill as yet and the referendum deadline will expire on July 10, 2014.

"If that remains the case, the amended Act will enter into force on August 1, 2014," it added.

The Swiss Parliament had approved the revision of the Tax Administrative Assistance Act in March this year.

The amendment includes a new provision that envisages a procedure with, in exceptional cases, deferred notification of persons entitled to appeal, as well as more precise specifications regarding group requests.

"Switzerland will thereby comply with the applicable international standard for administrative assistance in tax matters as well as an additional recommendation of the Global Forum on Tax Transparency," the government said.

The revision makes provision for affected persons to be notified only after information has been disclosed to the requesting state's authorities in urgent cases -- or the cases when prior notification would compromise the investigation.

Besides, the revised Act would also make it easier for Swiss authorities to provide 'administrative assistance' to foreign countries in cases of 'group requests'. While requests for individual cases are handled in a relatively effective manner, the existing rules in Switzerland put some restrictions on assistance in 'group requests' or cases where help is sought by foreign countries for a group of persons or a group of related cases together.

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