BERN Jan 30 Italian Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni said on Thursday he hoped long-running negotiations with Switzerland aimed at disclosing Italian savers' secret holdings in Swiss banks could reach a successful conclusion by May.
Successive governments have tried with limited success to crack down on rampant tax evasion in Italy.
Talks with Swiss authorities to unearth undeclared funds in Swiss bank accounts are part of these efforts and have been in progress for more than a year but with no clear results.
Speaking at a conference in Bern, Saccomanni said he "hoped" a deal would be reached before a visit to Switzerland by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on May 20-21.
He said he believed Italian legislation presented last week offering a partial amnesty to tax evaders who had stashed money abroad would make an accord with Switzerland on bank transparency more likely.
He stressed the terms of any deal must not be more favourable to account holders than those offered by Italy's so-called "voluntary disclosure" decree.
"There can be no room for anonymity or administrative or penal concessions that are different to those of the voluntary disclosure," he said.
The government decree offers exemptions and discounts on administrative and criminal sanctions for tax evaders who declare assets held outside the country, in return for repayment of all the taxes evaded.
Earlier on Thursday Saccomanni met with Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, after which Widmer-Schlumpf's office said in a statement that talks would continue "with the aim of reaching a satisfactory solution for both sides."
In 2013, Italy's 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 figures published last week.
More than 15 billion euros in revenue and assets were hidden outside the country in 2013, mostly in tax havens, the figures showed. (Writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Susan Fenton)