Swiss relax rules for info exchange on foreign black money

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New Delhi, Feb 15 (PTI) In a move that could help Indiain its black money trail, Switzerland today relaxed norms forsharing information on secret bank accounts of overseas taxoffenders by allowing varied modes of identification.

At present, only name and addresses are accepted as valididentity modes.

But the European nation would still consider asimpermissible any ''fishing expeditions'' or allowing theforeign countries to trawl through Swiss bank accounts in hopeof finding something of their interest.

The changes were made by the Swiss government''s financeministry today through a revision of ''Requirements forAdministrative Assistance in Tax Matters,'' an official saidfrom Bern, Switzerland.

The Indian government is facing intense pressure fromOpposition, as also courts, to act tough against those whohave amassed illicit wealth in foreign countries that havestrict secrecy rules.

The Swiss Parliament is debating a treaty between Indiaand Switzerland to pave the way for authorities here to seekdetails of illicit wealth stashed away by Indians in Swissbanks.

As per the existing practice, the foreign country havingan information exchange-facilitating treaty with Switzerlandcan get help from the Swiss government after providing nameand address of the suspected tax offender, as also those ofthe concerned bank.

As per the revision, "other means of identificationshould also be admissible in the future".

While Switzerland has not clarified what all ''othermeans'' of identification modes would be admissible for seekinginformation on suspected tax offenders, the Swiss FederalDepartment of Finance said that "identification via a bankaccount is also a possibility."

"... although care should be taken in these cases toensure that a fishing expedition is not involved," theministry said.

"Fishing expeditions continue to be impermissible," itadded.

To bring this revision into effect, the administrativeassistance provisions in double taxation agreements (DTAs)between Swiss and other governments would need to be revised.

In the DTA negotiations up to now, including the one withIndia, the name and address of not only the person but alsothe bank is needed in administrative assistance requests.

Besides, the ongoing parliamentary debate in Switzerlandon 10 treaties, including the one with India, it has beensaid that "administrative assistance be permitted only if thename and address of the person and the information holderconcerned are indicated in the request." .

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