* Swiss-French pacts bring tax cooperation into line with
* 80 pct of undeclared French funds being disclosed held in
* France now expects 1.8 bln euros vs initial 800 mln euro
By Denis Balibouse
BERNE, June 25 France and Switzerland agreed on
Wednesday to cooperate more closely on French efforts to crack
down on citizens with hidden Swiss bank accounts to root out tax
dodgers and cheats.
Countries around the world are trying to crack down on
undeclared funds held in offshore havens after the global
financial crisis strained government budgets and made the need
to maximise tax receipts more pressing.
Last month, Switzerland effectively ended Swiss banking
secrecy by agreeing to join other countries in sharing tax
information once that is established as an international
France has taken a tougher stance than its neighbours on the
level of cooperation it has demanded from Switzerland in the
meantime. Talks between the two have also been complicated by a
long-running dispute over inheritance tax for wealthy French
citizens in Switzerland.
Swiss parliament recently rejected reforms on inheritance
taxes and France responded by cancelling an existing treaty on
The changes agreed by French Finance Minister Michel Sapin
and his Swiss counterpart, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, in Berne
bring their cooperation in line with standards set out by the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The two will now cooperate on so-called group requests,
which allow foreign tax authorities to get at data on groups of
their citizens holding Swiss bank accounts without knowing their
identities, and on individuals who are not named if the French
authorities can identify them by some other means.
"Improving the exchange of information on judicial request
is a step towards the automatic exchange of information, which
is set to become standard in international tax cooperation,"
Sapin said in a statement.
The two ministers also signed a pact pledging to keep
talking and cooperating on tax fraud and evasion.
Tackling tax evasion is an issue French President Francois
Hollande is pushing hard to help trim public debt without
further stifling France's recession-stricken economy and also
because of a tax scandal involving a member of his cabinet.
Former budget minister Jerome Cahuzac was forced to resign
last March after revelations he held a secret Swiss bank
account, which he later admitted.
France's junior budget minister Christian Eckert told
lawmakers this week the government has taken in just over 1
billion euros ($1.36 billion) in taxes so far this year from
taxpayers coming clean on previously undeclared assets held
abroad, of which 80 percent are in neighbouring Switzerland.
France's Finance Ministry now expects 1.8 billion euros in
gains from regularisation of taxpayers' undeclared assets, up
from 800 million euros initially flagged for this year's budget.
A French parliament report last year into data leaked by a
former employee from HSBC revealed $5 billion of
undeclared assets in thousands of Swiss bank accounts.
($1 = 0.7355 Euros)
(Reporting by Katharina Bart and Ingrid Melander in Paris;
Writing by Katharina Bart; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)