UPDATE 1-Italian-Swiss tax talks continue, ministers to meet Thursday

Wed Jan 29, 2014 12:13pm EST

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(Adds denial from Swiss, quotes from Italian minister)

BRUSSELS/MILAN Jan 29 (Reuters) - Italy and Switzerland are still in talks to allow full disclosure of Italian savers' holdings in Swiss banks, Rome and Bern said on Wednesday, denying reports negotiations had broken down.

"They haven't broken down. Tomorrow I am going to Bern and the negotiations are ongoing over all the fiscal questions open with Switzerland," Italy's Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni told reporters in Brussels.

A Swiss finance ministry spokeswoman also denied the reports and said the Italian and Swiss ministers would hold a bilateral meeting on Thursday.

Earlier on Wednesday an Italian government source told Reuters the talks had broken down after Rome's decision last week to offer a partial amnesty to tax evaders who had stashed assets abroad, as also reported by Italian daily la Repubblica.

The new Italian legislation entails discounts on administrative and criminal charges for tax dodgers who voluntarily declare their hidden assets held outside the country. However, they would still be liable for prosecution for more serious financial crimes.

"The new Italian rules are the premise for a bilateral agreement because they clarify the legal framework Italy will use with non-cooperative taxpayers," Saccomanni said.

Italy has long suffered rampant tax evasion and successive governments have pledged crackdowns with the aim of reducing the fiscal burden on honest Italians and relieving the strain on public finances, amid the country's longest postwar recession.

In 2013, the finance police discovered more than 8,000 Italian businesses that had declared no income whatsoever but were hiding an estimated 16 billion euros in taxable revenue, according to annual figures published last week.

The finance police also discovered more than 15 billion euros in revenue and assets hidden outside the country in 2013, mostly in tax havens, the figures showed. (Reporting by Francesco Guarascio and Elvira Pollina; writing by Gavin Jones and Francesca Landini; editing by Andrew Roche)

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