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Merkel Stands Firm On Swiss Tax Deal

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

16 August 2012

German Chancellor Angela Merkel still intends to press ahead with the conclusion of the bilateral tax agreement with Switzerland, despite mounting opposition to the treaty.

The coalition and the Chancellor consider the tax accord with the Confederation to be a suitable way to satisfactorily resolve the difficult, longstanding conflict between the two countries, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in Berlin, noting that the treaty is designed to resolve not just the past but also future cases of undeclared money held by German residents in Swiss banks.

Referring to the latest allegations and remarks made by the Social Democrats (SPD), Seibert insisted that what has happened over the last few weeks is further evidence that the agreement with Switzerland must finally be concluded to enable the provisions to enter into force. Germany’s federal states would be “well advised” to adopt the text, he stressed.

SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel recently underlined the need for tougher action to be taken against Swiss banks suspected of aiding German residents avoid taxes.

Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has faced growing criticism for his part in the negotiations, in particular for failing to ensure that Swiss banks report their German clients to the federal tax authorities.

Echoing a statement made recently by Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, the German government has said that it has no knowledge that Swiss banks are aiding German tax evaders to relocate undeclared “black money” abroad to circumvent the tax deal, ruling out plans to renegotiate and further amend the signed agreement.

Adopted at the end of April by the German cabinet, the accord, which has already been modified following significant concessions from Switzerland, aims to ensure the equal treatment of the wealth of German citizens, whether located in Germany or in Switzerland, and to restore tax equity for the past by means of a lump sum tax.

Germany’s Social Democrats have, however, opposed the plans from the outset, and have threatened to veto the provisions in the Bundesrat, where the coalition no longer has a majority.

The German Bundesrat, or upper house of parliament, is due to vote on the tax deal in the autumn.

TAGS: individuals | Finance | tax | investment | law | banking | agreements | banking secrecy | withholding tax | Germany | Switzerland

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