(Adds Swiss banking group comment)
By Katharina Bart
ZURICH, July 16 (Reuters) - Swiss banks can more easily take on clients in neighbouring Germany, the Swiss government said on Thursday, after a deal that ends a lengthy standoff between the two countries over hidden offshore accounts.
Germany’s wealthy have traditionally been the largest client base for Swiss private banking services, but banks’ access to the German market has been limited in recent years as a result of a long-running tax dispute between the two countries.
Swiss banks had been required to have a branch in Germany in order to provide services there, but can now apply for “simplified authorisation” in Germany, Switzerland’s finance department said, after the two countries clarified details of how to implement a cross-border tax agreement struck in 2013.
The agreement had not been fully implemented as Germany kept up pressure on Switzerland over undeclared assets hidden from German finance officials in Swiss accounts, after a deal to levy a withholding tax on German assets held here was struck down by German lawmakers.
“An understanding on detailed aspects of implementation was reached recently,” the finance department said in a statement. “With the memorandum, competition and consumer protection will be strengthened and cooperation between the financial market supervisory authorities intensified.”
However it gave no further details of the agreement.
Banking lobby the Swiss Bankers Association, whose members include UBS and Credit Suisse, said the agreement would allow its members easier access to the German market. “We hope that similar solutions can be agreed upon with other important countries,” it said in a statement.
Switzerland already has agreements with Austria and Britain for so-called simplified authorisation of its banks but is still seeking arrangements with certain other countries. (Editing by Pravin Char and David Holmes)