TIMELINE-U.S.-Swiss tax dispute escalates over four years

Tue Jun 11, 2013 10:36am EDT

* Committee votes 7-6 to reject bill

* Both chambers set to vote on bill in coming days

BERN/ZURICH, June 11 (Reuters) - Switzerland's upper house of parliament votes on Wednesday on a bill that would let Swiss banks hand over information to help U.S. authorities clamp down on tax evasion.

The government is trying to rush the legislation through both chambers of parliament this month to end long-running tensions with U.S. authorities over banks accused of helping wealthy Americans hide their money from the tax authorities.

Following is a timeline of key developments in the bank secrecy dispute between Switzerland and the United States:

2009

UBS AG agrees to turn over 4,450 client names and pay a $780 million fine after admitting to criminal wrongdoing in selling tax-evasion services to wealthy Americans.

2011

July 15 - Credit Suisse confirms U.S. authorities have formally notified Switzerland's second biggest bank that it is under criminal investigation. The bank later makes a provision for a potential fine of 295 million Swiss francs ($314.13 million).

Sept 15 - The U.S. pursuit of offshore tax evaders is widening to include Israel, where U.S. authorities are scrutinizing three of Israel's largest banks over suspicions their Swiss outposts helped American clients evade taxes.

2012

Feb 3 - U.S. Justice Department indicts Wegelin & Co, Switzerland's oldest private bank, on charges that it enabled wealthy Americans to evade taxes on at least $1.2 billion hidden in offshore accounts.

June 21 - The U.S. Treasury Department reaches a tentative agreement with Switzerland to help banks comply with upcoming U.S. tax evasion regulations, the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA.

June 29 - Swiss bank Julius Baer has handed 2,500 employee names to U.S. authorities, a Geneva-based lawyer says, as it seeks to free itself from the tax probe.

Aug 15 - Global bank HSBC confirms it has handed over details of current and former employees to the U.S. authorities.

Nov 25 - Swiss private bank Pictet confirms it is also under investigation by the U.S. authorities.

Dec 19 - Swiss lender Zuercher Kantonalbank (ZKB) said two of its bankers and one former employee had been charged by U.S. authorities, which had accused them of helping U.S. clients avoid taxes.

2013

Jan 3 - Wegelin & Co says it will permanently shut its doors after more than 2-1/2 centuries, following a guilty plea to charges of helping wealthy Americans evade taxes through secret accounts.

Wegelin later agrees to pay nearly $58 million in fines on top of $16.3 million in forfeitures already obtained by the authorities.

May 29 - Swiss government presents bill to parliament that would let Swiss banks hand over internal information to U.S. authorities in the hope of avoiding threatened criminal charges - though the banks still face fines likely to total billions of dollars.

The bill aims to save the banks from heavier punishment in the United States for helping wealthy tax cheats, by sidestepping its secrecy laws to let bankers disclose data to U.S. prosecutors.

June 11 - The economics committee of the upper house of the Swiss parliament votes 7-6 to reject the draft law.

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