Swiss take steps to clean up tax-haven image

BERNE Wed Feb 22, 2012 9:11am EST

BERNE (Reuters) - Switzerland announced plans on Wednesday to force banks to do more to make sure foreign clients' money is taxed in an attempt to shake off its past as a haven for untaxed funds as it seeks to put an end to a damaging U.S. tax probe.

"The focus is on enhanced due diligence requirements for banks when accepting assets as well as a requirement for foreign clients to make a declaration on the fulfillment of their tax obligations," the cabinet said in a statement.

The announcement comes on top of a raft of measures already announced in recent years, including a planned withholding tax on foreign assets held in Switzerland and better co-operation with foreign authorities pursuing alleged tax dodgers.

A global crackdown from cash-strapped governments in recent years has chipped away Switzerland's cherished tradition of banking secrecy, which helped it build up a $2 trillion offshore wealth management industry.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley)