ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland’s parliament may only get to vote on a general legal framework for a tax agreement with U.S. authorities that would pave the way for individual solutions with banks, a Swiss newspaper reported on Sunday.
“Parliament will determine the legal framework allowing the banks to negotiate individual solutions with the United States,” Lorenz Hess, vice-president of Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf’s BDP party, told weekly NZZ am Sonntag.
“The results of State Secretary Michael Ambuehl’s negotiations will not be discussed directly in parliament.”
Switzerland’s top tax diplomat Ambuehl, who has been conducting tax negotiations with the U.S. and Europe, said on Friday he was stepping down at the end of August.
Ambuehl has been Switzerland’s main negotiator in disputes with tax authorities in the United States and its European neighbors as cash-strapped governments there seek to fill depleted state coffers with a crack down on tax evasion.
Switzerland’s long tradition of bank secrecy, which protects the identity of its clients, has seen the country become a haven for untaxed funds.
Negotiations with the United States involving about a dozen Swiss banks appear to be entering a final phase, with analysts expecting a deal involving fines for the banks and a transfer of client names to the U.S. authorities.
NZZ am Sonntag quoted politicians from the country’s left-wing socialist party SP as well as the right-wing People’s Party SVP who said they would not approve a deal in parliament without knowing all the details.
Another Swiss Sunday newspaper, SonntagsZeitung, said Widmer-Schlumpf would on Wednesday submit a federal law to the government that would enable banks to transfer client and employee data to U.S. authorities.
The law will be urgently submitted to parliament at its next session in June even if no deal with the U.S. has been signed, the newspaper said without giving its sources.
Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford