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Italy Against Swiss Tax Pacts

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

19 November 2010

During a meeting of the European Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin) in Brussels, Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s Minister of the Economy, declared that he was wholly against the bilateral agreements for the exchange of tax information which some European Union (EU) member states were negotiating with Switzerland.

The Ecofin has been discussing rules which would bring the existing EU Savings Tax Directive more into line with the agreed international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development standard on the exchange of tax information. Such new measures would require a unanimous vote within EU member states.

In the meantime, it has been seen that certain EU countries, particularly the United Kingdom and Germany, have agreed to start bilateral talks with Switzerland (to which the Savings Tax Directive has been effectively extended since 2005) on agreements which would allow those countries to tax assets held by their residents in Swiss accounts, while Switzerland would get to retain some measure of banking secrecy.

In particular, in the eyes of the Italian government, those agreements, and the current EU Directive, avoid the automatic exchange of information about bank clients. That is the main reason why such countries as Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Switzerland remain on Italy’s “blacklist” of tax havens (and have been affected, for example, under its new value added tax disclosure regulations) and why it has, as yet, been impossible to complete a long-discussed double taxation agreement (DTA) between Italy and Switzerland.

Tremonti has, for some time, been concerned at the level of information and/or tax remitted between countries under the Directive, and had already threatened, at the beginning of this year, an Italian veto on all EU tax matters unless clarification was forthcoming on tax recovery.

He has now said that the agreements being negotiated with Switzerland compromise, and are “plainly against the spirit of”, the existing EU regulations. He said that Italy could not agree to the EU Directive being “violated” by bilateral agreements. He pointed out that he is awaiting a reply within Ecofin on their unacceptability, and that “without a reply, there could not be unanimity”.

While there have also been further rumblings recently, particularly in the Swiss press, that there could be movement shortly towards a signing of the DTA between Italy and Switzerland, it will be seen that Tremonti, on whose shoulders would rest any decision to proceed, would need to move some way in his present opinion before any signing could be contemplated.

A comprehensive report in our Intelligence Report series, examining in depth the situation of offshore transparency and secrecy in a number of the most prominent jurisdictions, is available in the Lowtax Library at and a description of the report can be seen at
TAGS: tax | offshore confidentiality | double tax agreement (DTA) | tax avoidance | law | banking | enforcement | offshore | agreements | banking secrecy | Italy | Switzerland | regulation | European Union (EU) | Europe

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