Switzerland is urging American authorities to be “fair and balanced” when dealing with Swiss financial institutions accused of assisting US citizens evade taxes using off-shore bank accounts. The United States government is involved in a worldwide crackdown on American citizens using foreign bank accounts to avoid paying tax.
Several Swiss banking units, including the Swiss operations of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., have agreed to help US authorities by handing over the documents associated with American account holders. Others have tried to settle the tax dispute diplomatically to ensure a minimal disruption to operations.
The Swiss Finance Department recently said: “Switzerland is committed to ensuring with the US authorities a fair and balanced procedure in accordance with the principle of proportionality in order to prevent Swiss banks from being treated worse than other banks.”
Swiss finance minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf recent held a meeting with Eric Holder, the US Attorney General, to discuss ways to settle the two countries’ large-scale tax dispute. Several Swiss banks are currently under investigation by the US financial regulatory system, with many facing the possibility of fines and criminal charges after US clients were assisted with tax evasion schemes.
Credit Suisse Group AG, Switzerland’s second-largest bank, is one of several trying to avoid criminal charges that could lead to US regulatory restrictions. The bank is currently involved in a criminal investigation dating back to 2011 due to its role in helping US citizens avoid paying tax.
Several of the banks under investigation have agreed to provide documents about the process of establishing Swiss bank accounts for American clients in return for agreements guaranteeing that they will not be prosecuted. Around a dozen Swiss banks are not eligible for non-prosecution agreements and may face large fines.