March 13, 2009

List of tax havens shrinks with Swiss move

Switzerland said Friday it would alter its international banking policies to align itself with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Although Swiss Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz said Switzerland was not laying to rest Swiss banking secrecy, the government, he said, was ready to begin negotiations on revising double taxation agreements.

While the move faces internal opposition in Switzerland, the country faced international pressure and possible sanctions for its status as a tax haven, Swissinfo reported Friday.

In February, Swiss bank UBS agreed to pay a $780 million fine on charges it had helped thousands of U.S. citizens hide assets from the Internal Revenue Service.

The principality of Liechtenstein said Thursday it would conform to international standards of tax reporting. Singapore has begun to take steps towards OECD compliance.

Austria, Luxembourg, Andorra and Hong Kong have also announced they will take steps to avoid the stigma of being known as a tax haven. Andorra, the Isle of Man and the Cayman Islands have also joined the list of countries stating their intention to comply with international standards, the EU Observer noted.

Every product, every actor and every place in the world must be transparent, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.