Urs Zulauf — 14 May 2019
Fundamental changes occurred in Swiss international tax law since 2009, directly effecting and fundamentally limiting the scope of traditional Swiss banking secrecy with regard to foreign clients and foreign tax authorities. The paper analyses what legally remains of traditional Swiss “tax banking secrecy”. The conclusion is that there are still notable legal and practical restrictions regarding access of foreign tax authorities to Swiss bank accounts. However, these restrictions have been dramatically reduced in particular but not exclusively by Switzerland’s adoption of the automatic exchange of information under the US-FATCA and the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard. In contrast, the legal framework ruling Swiss bank secrecy regarding domestic tax authorities remained almost unchanged during the same period. The result is a major disconnect of Switzerland’s international and domestic tax banking secrecy. Along with the changes of Switzerland’s international tax law Swiss banks have fundamentally changed their approach with regard to the handling of undeclared client assets. To address and reduce their client tax risks, also required by the Swiss financial regulator FINMA, the banks have started and largely completed client tax compliance programs requiring their new and existing foreign clients to present plausible evidence to corroborate that their assets and generated returns are duly declared. At least some banks included their Swiss resident clients in such programs. The paper concludes, that in spite of all the changes ruling Swiss tax banking secrecy it is rather unlikely that the discussions around the scope will come to an end neither internationally nor domestically.