Page last updated at 16:35 GMT, Friday, 19 June 2009 17:35 UK

Switzerland agrees to US tax deal

UBS headquarters in Zurich
The news comes amid an ongoing row between UBS and the US government

Switzerland has agreed a new bilateral framework on sharing tax information with the US, as it continues to ease its once strict banking secrecy.

In March, the Swiss government announced that it would start to abide by the current global standards on sharing bank data.

Switzerland is hoping these moves will help secure its removal from a list of countries considered likely tax havens.

In February Swiss bank UBS had to give the US details of 300 account holders.

WHAT IS A TAX HAVEN?
Low or no taxation
Lack of transparency
Refusal to provide information to foreign tax authorities
Source: OECD

The US government had accused the 300 - all American citizens - of using their Swiss accounts to avoid paying tax.

UBS gave their details to US authorities after legal action in America.

US officials have since demanded details of a further 50,000 UBS customers, but the bank has so far refused.

'Specific request'

The Swiss finance ministry said the new tax deal with the US would be officially signed in the next few months.

TAX EVASION v TAX FRAUD
Switzerland is unusual in distinguishing between tax evasion and tax fraud
Tax evasion is the deliberate concealing of assets
Tax fraud, in addition, involves lying on official documents
Both are criminal offences in most countries, but tax evasion is only a civil matter in Switzerland

However, it added that individual tax details would only be exchanged with the US "in individual cases where a specific and justified request has been made".

This echoed a similar comment made in March, when the government said it would only respond to "concrete and justified" requests for personal banking data.

Global rules on the sharing of bank account details are set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Switzerland is currently on the OECD's "grey list" of countries that need to improve their exchange of tax information or face possible financial sanctions.



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