President Merz reiterates Swiss position at meeting of finance ministers

Bern, 23.06.2009 - At the meeting of finance ministers in Berlin, which was attended by 20 selected ministers of OECD and EU countries on the invitation of German Finance Minister Peer Steinbr├╝ck and French Budget Minister Eric Woerth, President Hans-Rudolf Merz reiterated Switzerland's position regarding international cooperation in tax matters. He emphasised that Switzerland would rapidly follow its words with deeds. Since the decision of the Federal Council to expand administrative assistance in accordance with Article 26 of the OECD Model Tax Convention, Switzerland has already renegotiated half a dozen double taxation agreements.

The meeting of finance ministers on the invitation of Ministers Steinbr├╝ck and Woerth served to assess the status of implementation of the OECD standard on the exchange of information in tax matters. In his speech, President Merz referred to the different tax cultures in countries. He emphasised that Switzerland is a reliable partner in the international context. He once again rejected as untenable the allegation that Switzerland is a tax haven. President Merz reiterated Switzerland's willingness to swiftly implement the decision of the Federal Council of 13 March 2009 to withdraw its reservation to Article 26 of the OECD Model Tax Convention and to provide administrative assistance in future upon request in individual cases in all tax matters. Switzerland has immediately followed this decision with deeds: Six double taxation agreements (DTAs) have already been renegotiated. There is no reason to doubt Switzerland's probity, said Merz.

At the meeting, President Merz called for equal treatment for all states and market participants, i.e. a level playing field. He demanded that all countries featured on the lists of the OECD and the G20 be treated on the same terms. All financial centres should apply the same norms, and their implementation should be reviewed in the same way. In this regard, he emphasised Switzerland's demand for a transparent monitoring process based on objective and jointly-determined criteria in the implementation of the exchange of information. The President argued firmly against excluding the participation of OECD member states such as Switzerland when compiling such lists in future.

In his statement, President Merz reiterated the importance of shared responsibility for international cooperation in tax matters: namely of states where bank deposits are held as well as of states where the owners of the capital live. President Merz rejected all efforts to suppress cross-border capital flows using protectionist measures.

Switzerland wants to set a good example as a reliable partner and continue to make rapid progress in the revision of DTAs. President Merz underscored the Federal Council's approach according to which the expansion of administrative assistance in tax matters is negotiated individually with each country.

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