Free Press Journal

Switzerland ready to discuss tax info-exchange with India


New Delhi: Intensifying efforts to address Indian concerns over alleged stashing of illicit funds in Swiss banks, Switzerland will send a delegation to India to discuss the “current situation” and define measures for greater cooperation on tax matters.

Switzerland has also agreed to an OECD global automatic exchange of tax information framework, which would further enhance its information exchange mechanism with India after becoming operational, a Swiss government official said.

There have been concerns in India about limited flow of tax information from Switzerland about Indian citizens who have allegedly stashed away unaccounted money in Swiss banks.

Despite efforts by the Alpine nation to shed its banking secrecy tag, Switzerland is still perceived in some quarters to be a safe haven and to be reluctant in sharing information.

Seeking to dispel such perceptions, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Finance said that it has intensified its efforts in the field of information exchange to explain Swiss laws and practice to the Indian authorities in a transparent way.

“For doing so, a Swiss delegation is prepared to travel to New Delhi to discuss the current situation and, if need be, define measures for enhancing the collaboration in tax matters,” a Swiss Federal Department of Finance spokesperson told PTI from Bern in reply to emailed queries.

“For decades, Switzerland and India have maintained a good and amicable relationship which does not stop deepening and intensifying,” the official added.

The Swiss finance ministry said that the requests for information are currently treated according to the treaty on the avoidance of double taxation based on international standards with India, which has been in force since October 7, 2011.

However, the OECD tax convention that Switzerland signed last year on October 15 has not yet come into force.

“Once it is in force, the information exchange between Switzerland and India will be further enhanced,” the official said.

However, the ministry refused to divulge the number of requests made by India on tax issues, citing confidentiality.

“Because of the principle of confidentiality given by the international standard in tax matters, the exact number of the current requests for tax information cannot be disclosed to the public,” the spokesperson said.

As per the latest data available with the European nation’s central bank, the Swiss National Bank, the total funds held by Indians in Swiss banks declined to to a record low of about Rs 9,000 crore (1.42 billion Swiss francs) at the end of 2012, as compared to around Rs 14,000 crore (2.18 billion Swiss francs) a year ago.

The overall funds held in Swiss banks by entities from across the world also fell from USD 1.65 trillion to USD 1.5 trillion during 2012.