Federal Council initiates two consultations on international exchange of information in tax matters
Bern, 14.01.2015 - During its meeting today, the Federal Council launched two consultations on the international exchange of information in tax matters, which should also make the automatic exchange of information (AEOI) possible. One bill concerns the OECD/Council of Europe administrative assistance convention signed by Switzerland in 2013. The other bill concerns Switzerland's participation in the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement and the AEOI implementing act. The issue of the countries with which Switzerland should establish the automatic exchange of information will be presented to Parliament separately at a later stage.
Joining the OECD/Council of Europe administrative assistance convention of 1988, which has been signed by 69 states and implemented by 43, is currently part of the standard for international cooperation in tax matters. The new global standard for the automatic exchange of information (AEOI) should prevent cross-border tax evasion. To date, almost 100 countries, including Switzerland and all other major financial centres, have declared their intention to adopt the standard.
The Federal Council's decision to sign the administrative assistance convention and implement the global AEOI standard is in line with its strategy for a competitive Swiss financial centre, which includes the international standards in the area of tax and particularly those concerning transparency and the exchange of information. The bilateral activation of the AEOI will be addressed in separate bills that will be submitted to the Federal Assembly for approval. Corresponding negotiations with the European Commission and possible partner states are under way or will commence in the near future. The exchange of information within a country is not affected by the global standard and it is not covered by the two consultations either.
The two consultation drafts in detail:
OECD/Council of Europe administrative assistance convention
The Federal Council signed the OECD/Council of Europe Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters (administrative assistance convention) on 15 October 2013. It contains the substantive legal basis for administrative assistance between Switzerland and other contracting parties. The convention makes provision for the three forms of information exchange: upon request, spontaneous and automatic. The exchange of information upon request corresponds to the OECD standard adopted by Switzerland in 2009, which has since been agreed in numerous double taxation agreements and tax information exchange agreements. Joining the administrative assistance convention enables Switzerland to increase the number of partner countries with which it can exchange information upon request in a standard-compliant manner. Moreover, the spontaneous exchange of information is introduced with the administrative assistance convention. With the spontaneous exchange of information, data is not transmitted following a prior request, but rather when the transmitting state suspects another state's possible interest in information it already has. The administrative assistance convention is also a basis for the introduction of the automatic exchange of information.
Aside from the exchange of information, the administrative assistance convention also makes provision for other forms of administrative assistance, i.e. assistance in enforcement and administrative assistance for the service of documents. The Federal Council proposes excluding these other forms by making one of the reservations cited as options in the administrative assistance convention. Only direct postal delivery should be possible for the service of foreign authorities' documents in Switzerland and vice versa for the service of Swiss authorities' documents abroad. Finally, by making a further reservation, the applicability of the administrative assistance convention for tax offences committed wilfully and subject to criminal sanctions should be restricted to a time period following the convention's signing by Switzerland in 2013.
The Federal Council is also proposing to make two declarations. Firstly, that Switzerland will generally inform affected persons about the forthcoming exchange of information and secondly, that Switzerland will not allow foreign authorities' requests to conduct tax audits in Switzerland.
MCAA and AEOI Act
Switzerland signed the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement on the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information (MCAA) on 19 November 2014. The MCAA is based on the idea of uniform implementation of the OECD's AEOI standard. It is based on Article 6 of the administrative assistance convention which will be submitted for consultation at the same time. The MCAA makes provision for the exchange of information collected in accordance with the provisions of the automatic exchange of information standard developed by the OECD with the G20 members (common reporting standard). In terms of content, the common reporting standard sets out who has to collect which information on which accounts.
Not all of the provisions of the MCAA and the common reporting standard are sufficiently detailed, justiciable and thus directly applicable, and that is why the enactment of an accompanying federal law is necessary. The Federal Act on the International Automatic Exchange of Information in Tax Matters (AEOI Act) governs the implementation of the AEOI standard and contains provisions on the organisation, the procedure, judicial channels and the applicable criminal provisions. The AEOI Act essentially refers to the Data Protection Act for the affected persons' right to inspect and their procedural rights. The information received automatically from abroad can be used for the application and enforcement of Swiss tax law.
Both consultations will run until 21 April 2015. The Federal Council's dispatches for the attention of Parliament are expected in summer 2015. Parliament can thus discuss the draft legislation from autumn 2015. This means that the legal foundations could come into force from the beginning of 2017, even with a possible referendum. The first automatic exchange of information would then take place in 2018.
Address for enquiries
Mario Tuor, Head of Communications, State Secretariat for International Financial Matters SIF
Tel. +41 31 322 46 16, email@example.com