Switzerland hopes for speedy end to U.S. tax dispute

WASHINGTON, April 19 Fri Apr 19, 2013 3:48pm EDT

WASHINGTON, April 19 (Reuters) - Switzerland is hoping for a speedy resolution on a long-running dispute with the United States over Swiss banks accused of helping wealthy Americans evade billions of dollars of taxes, the Swiss finance minister said on Friday.

Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, in Washington to attend spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund, said she had met with U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Thursday but he had made it clear the decision on a proposed solution lay with the Justice Department.

"We would like to find a solution as quickly as possible but it's a solution that ... must still be discussed," she told reporters, declining to predict when a decision would be made.

"You have to give the delegation time to complete the negotiations."

A source familiar with the talks has told Reuters the two sides have agreed on an outline for a deal that would divide over 300 Swiss banks according to the extent to which they had helped U.S. clients hide money, to determine how they are dealt with.

Bank secrecy, which has helped Switzerland become the world's largest offshore center with $2 trillion in assets, has come under heavy fire since the financial crisis as cash-strapped governments have sought to clamp down on tax evasion.

The Swiss government has been in protracted talks to end U.S. investigations into Swiss banks, including Credit Suisse and Julius Baer, in return for expected heavy fines and a transfer of client names. (Reporting by Krista Hughes; Editing by Neil Stempleman)

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