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President Merz Praises Revolutionary Swiss VAT System

by Ulrika Lomas, Tax-News.com, Brussels

15 September 2009


During an opening speech of the High Level VAT Conference, recently held in Lucerne, Switzerland’s President Hans-Rudolf Merz praised the “revolutionary” reform of the Swiss VAT system currently taking place.

Designed to simplify the existing VAT system, the aim of the reform is to introduce a standard VAT rate, throughout the country, of 6.1%.

According to President Merz, the introduction of a uniform, record low rate will bring clear economic benefits for Switzerland, and the new system could serve as a pioneering model for other countries.

Speaking before senior tax policy officials from 25 OECD countries and representatives from the European Commission, the Swiss President also seized the opportunity to address the issue of tax evasion, a highly contentious subject, which has, until very recently, caused a rift between Switzerland and the OECD.

Warning of the pitfalls of focusing too heavily on the small minority of tax evaders, Merz reiterated Switzerland’s commitment to providing cooperation in tax matters, eager to resume positive relations with the OECD.

Switzerland announced back in March its decision to adopt in its tax treaties an internationally agreed standard of exchange of information developed by the OECD.

Since that landmark decision, Switzerland has signed five double taxation agreements (DTAs), with Denmark, Luxembourg, France, Norway and Austria, containing the extended administrative assistance clause in accordance with Article 26 of the OECD Model Convention.

Switzerland has so far negotiated DTAs with an extended administrative assistance clause with 14 countries.

According to the Swiss authorities, along with the agreements already signed, agreements have been initialed with Mexico, the USA, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, the United Kingdom, Finland, Qatar and Singapore. Of these, the Federal Council has given the go-ahead for DTAs to be signed with Mexico, the United Kingdom, the USA, and Finland. The other initialed DTAs will be submitted to the Federal Council shortly for approval to be signed.


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