Swiss regulator recommends banks take provisions for US tax deal

ZURICH Tue Dec 24, 2013 4:04am EST

ZURICH Dec 24 (Reuters) - Swiss banks should set aside funds to cover the legal costs and fines associated with a crackdown on Swiss lenders suspected of helping wealthy Americans evade taxes, the country's financial regulator has recommended.

The regulator FINMA said it was "generally recommended" that banks book provisions for the 2013 financial year, a FINMA spokesman said, referring to a letter sent to the Swiss Banking Association and the Institute of Certified Accountants and Tax Consultants on Monday.

The regulator did not give any details on how much should be set aside to cover legal costs and expected fines.

The United States and Switzerland struck a deal in August to allow some Swiss banks to pay fines to avoid or defer prosecution as part of a U.S. pursuit of tax dollars sheltered in the world's largest offshore financial centre.

Swiss banks have until the end of the year to sign up to the programme which requires the banks to hand over some previously hidden information and face penalties equivalent to up to 50 percent of the assets they managed on behalf of wealthy Americans.

Many banks have come forward to say they will take part in the programme, including Geneva-based Banque Privee Edmond de Rothschild and EFG International.

The success of the scheme, open to a host of second-tier banks in Switzerland, is key for a future settlement for 14 larger Swiss banks being investigated. Among those under investigation are Credit Suisse, Julius Baer , Pictet, local government-backed Zuercher Kantonalbank (ZKB) and Basler Kantonalbank.

Last week, Basler Kantonalbank said it would take a 100 million Swiss franc ($112 million) provision against full-year earnings. Credit Suisse took a 295 million franc provision two years ago.

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