PARIS Switzerland has signed up to an international convention on cooperating with foreign tax authorities, the OECD said on Tuesday, shaking a pillar of Swiss bank secrecy.
Under European Union and U.S. pressure to help fight tax evasion, Swiss political support for bank secrecy has gradually waned, paving the way for tax deals with foreign authorities.
In such a step, Switzerland became the 58th country to join the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's convention on sharing tax information with foreign tax authorities.
The Paris-based OECD's Multilateral Convention is a wide-reaching agreement to exchange information about taxpayers between authorities either on request or spontaneously.
Despite Switzerland's new-found willingness to cooperate with foreign tax authorities, Berne stopped short of committing to the automatic exchange of tax records and is little inclined to do so any time soon.
However, it would respond to requests about particular cases from tax authorities in other countries signed up to the convention.
Though the convention is little used currently for the automatic exchange of information, the OECD wants that to change amid a big push among the Group of 20 economic powers for more automatic sharing of tax records.
The Swiss government said last week it would sign the convention as well as revise a tax deal with the European Union on savings held in Switzerland.
Switzerland still has to ratify its adhesion to the convention which could take as long as a year-and-a-half and which could get bogged down if it is put to a referendum.
Signing the convention is one step Switzerland hopes will allow it to escape inclusion on an international list of countries deemed to have fallen behind on tax cooperation.
The OECD's Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information, which has completed about 100 reviews of countries' progress on tax cooperation, is due to publish the list when it meets in Jakarta on November 21-22.
For the full statement from the OECD: link.reuters.com/xyc83v
(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; editing by Stephen Nisbet)