BERLIN (Reuters) - German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble wants to prevent people in Germany who have money in offshore firms from being able to hide behind their banks in future, a document seen by Reuters on Wednesday showed.
Schaeuble is due to present the 10-point plan to the heads of federal and state tax departments on Thursday. He has stepped up his drive to combat tax evasion internationally following the publication of the Panama Papers, which revealed how offshore firms are used to stash the wealth of the world’s elite.
The veteran finance minister wants to get rid of a paragraph in the fiscal code that is key to bank secrecy because it prevents auditors who stumble upon a list of possible offshore firms owned by bank customers from passing on this information to tax authorities, the document showed.
The banking secrecy granted by civil law, which prevents banks from giving information to third parties such as other companies, should not be affected by this, the plan said.
However, Schaeuble wants tax authorities to be able to send collective requests for information to banks, the plan showed, which would mean that customers could no longer hide behind their bank.
Taxpayers should inform the tax office if they have founded offshore firms abroad or if they have obtained shares in these and banks should also inform the tax office if they organize offshore activity for their customers, the plan said.
Schaeuble said he wanted tax evasion via offshore firms to be declared “particularly serious tax evasion” in future. That would mean the statute of limitations is extended to 10 years and it should only start once a tax evader has reported his dealings with an offshore firm to tax authorities.
Schaeuble needs to get the federal states on board for the plan to go ahead because they are responsible for tax administration.
Reporting by Matthias Sobolewski; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Gareth Jones