November 27, 2009 / 10:58 AM / 10 years ago

Swiss to consider referendums for all new tax deals

* Swiss propose optional referendums for all new tax deals

* Deals aimed at ending tax haven stigma after G20 pressure

ZURICH, Nov 27 (Reuters) - The Swiss government asked parliament on Friday to approve five new tax treaties as part of its effort to counter the country’s stigma of being an international tax haven and said the deals should be subject to an optional referendum.

The Swiss Finance Department said in a statement the initial batch of five revised double taxation agreements (DTAs) were with the United States, Denmark, France, Mexico and Britain.

“The revised DTAs meet international standards relating to administrative assistance in tax matters. They provide numerous benefits for the Swiss economy,” the department said.

“The Federal Council is of the opinion that they should all be made subject to an optional referendum.”

The Swiss government had initially suggested only the first revised treaty should be voted upon in a referendum but this was met with a storm of criticism by those who oppose the weakening of strict banking secrecy.

The finance department said the lower chamber should consider the agreements next spring and the government expected to submit a second batch of five agreements for approval before the end of January 2010.

Switzerland was removed from an OECD “grey list” of tax havens in September after it signed a 12th tax deal that required sharing with foreign tax authorities bank data in cases of suspected tax evasion.

G20 leaders agreed earlier this year to name and shame offshore centres that did not cooperate on tax evasion and threatened them with sanctions,

The pressure was particularly high on Switzerland, the biggest offshore centre which manages one third of the world’s wealth, at a time when banking giant UBS UBSN.VX was facing a tax fraud probe in the United States.

The Swiss, UBS and the U.S. government settled their tax case in August, with the bank agreeing to turn over 4,450 names of clients with undeclared accounts to authorities.

For the full statement of the Swiss finance ministry click on: here (Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Matthew Jones) ((Reuters messaging: emma.thomasson1.reuters.com@reuters.net; +41 58 306 7311))

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