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Liechtenstein Creates Legal Basis For Administrative Assistance In Tax Matters

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

18 December 2009

The Liechtenstein government has adopted a consultation report for the Law on Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters. The law creates the legal basis for implementation of agreements providing for information exchange in tax matters.

"With [this law], we have achieved another milestone in our consistent and rapid implementation of the international OECD standards," announced Prime Minister Klaus Tschütscher. "The law offers financial center clients, financial intermediaries, and our international treaty partners a clear legal framework for information exchange and accordingly for legal certainty."

Since Liechtenstein’s decision earlier in the year to adopt the OECD standards on tax cooperation, Liechtenstein has concluded numerous tax information exchange agreements (TIEAs) and double taxation agreements. These include TIEAs signed with Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Ireland, due to enter into force for the 2010 tax year.

Based on the OECD standards, the draft law provides for information exchange on the basis of detailed requests in individual cases within the framework of applicable agreements. For this purpose, the request must precisely identify the taxpayer affected by the information exchange and present the underlying fact pattern. The law thus rules out automatic information exchange or so-called "fishing expeditions."

Regarding the implementation of the TIEA concluded with the United States, the law establishes an efficient and rapid administrative assistance procedure, which offers the necessary legal protection for the affected persons as well as judicial review.

Given the unique nature of the agreement concluded with the United Kingdom on August 11, 2009, which provides for special arrangements until 2015, Liechtenstein has adopted a separate draft law.

The agreement with the UK provides for the creation of a Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility (LDF), administered by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC). As part of a taxpayer assistance and compliance program, Liechtenstein ensures that clients of the financial center taxable in the UK honor their tax obligations.

According to the government, the draft law stipulates the implementation rules for the compliance program. The UK TIEA Act and the rules for the compliance program contained therein do not provide for exchange of UK client data to HMRC beyond the OECD standard.

Information exchange upon request is governed solely by the general Administrative Assistance Act. The UK TIEA Act contains additional grounds for declining requests prior to April 1, 2015, which, for the purpose of protecting clients, provide for administrative assistance only in a few exceptional cases for the duration of the program.

Once the consultation period has elapsed on February 5, 2010, both laws will be presented to parliament for their first reading in April.

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