Friday, August 26, 2011

Swiss Kickstart Talks With U.S. to Settle Tax Probe

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland has made a proposal to try to kickstart talks to settle its impasse with U.S. authorities over Swiss banks suspected of helping wealthy Americans dodge taxes, its finance minister said.

"We have presented a discussion framework (to the U.S.)," Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf told reporters on the sidelines of a conference on Friday. "We will try to solve it so that we do not get any more difficulties."

Widmer-Schlumpf said the proposal was an attempt to settle the dispute under the auspices of a new bilateral taxation agreement which the Swiss parliament approved in September 2009 and the U.S. Senate has yet to ratify.

She declined to give any timetable for the negotiations, which a spokesman would only say were proceeding.

Strict bank secrecy has helped Switzerland build up a $2 trillion offshore financial industry, but the country has agreed in recent years to do more to help hunt tax cheats amid a global crackdown on tax havens.

The United States is pushing for Switzerland to hand over thousands more bank client names as it did last year when it allowed UBS to bend bank secrecy and reveal the details of around 4,450 clients to avoid criminal charges.
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