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Switzerland Consults On Tax Transparency Measures

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

18 January 2018

The Swiss Federal Council is consulting on recommendations made by the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, to improve the transparency of beneficial ownership information.

The OECD's Global Forum conducts peer reviews of member countries in two phases. Phase 1 covers the legal and regulatory framework in the country concerned. Phase 2, to which Switzerland was admitted in 2015, assesses the efficiency of the exchange of information in practice.

In 2016, the Global Forum rated Switzerland "largely compliant" with international standards for tax transparency and the exchange of information. Among its recommendations were that Switzerland ensure that appropriate reporting mechanisms are in place to ensure the identification of the owners of bearer shares, and that each of its information exchange agreements allows for exchanges to tax place in line with the international standard.

The Federal Council has now proposed the conversion of bearer shares into registered shares. It has also proposed the introduction of a system of sanctions for shareholders who fail to comply with their duty to report beneficial ownership and for companies that breach their obligation to keep a register of shareholders and beneficial owners.

The legislation will additionally ensure the right of authorities and financial intermediaries to examine such registers, provided that this is necessary for them to perform their roles.

The bill makes provision for the confidentiality of administrative assistance requests.

The consultation will close on April 24. The Federal Council said that a dispatch will be drawn up based on the results of the consultation. The dispatch will also regulate the handling of stolen data.

The text of the dispatch is expected to be discussed by parliament in the winter of 2018.

The Federal Council also announced that it has decided not to pursue plans for a Federal Act on the Unilateral Application of the OECD Standard on the Exchange of Information (EoISA), on which it consulted in October 2014.

The Council explained that Standard-compliant double tax agreements and tax information exchange agreements have since been concluded with a large number of other countries, and that the Administrative Assistance Convention (applicable since January 1, 2018) has increased the number of partner countries with which Switzerland can exchange information upon request in a Standard-compliant manner. The Council said that this has rendered the unilateral route sought by the EoISA redundant.

The next Forum peer review of Switzerland will start in the second half of 2018.

TAGS: compliance | tax | tax compliance | Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) | agreements | legislation | Switzerland | standards | BEPS

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