[ZURICH] Switzerland and the European Union on Thursday clinched a deal to automatically exchange tax data on citizens from 2018, ending years of fighting over how to track down the hidden wealth of cross-border tax cheats.
Switzerland is the world's biggest offshore wealth management centre, just ahead of Singapore.
The European Commission called the pact a major step towards fighting tax evasion because EU citizens could no longer stash wealth in Swiss accounts to hide it from the tax authorities. "Today, we are taking a decisive step towards total tax transparency between Switzerland and the EU. I am confident that our other neighbours will soon follow suit. This transparency is vital to ensure that each country can collect the tax revenues it is due," European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said.
The agreement, which must be formally signed and is subject to a potential referendum in Switzerland, fully reflects new global standards on exchanging information about income from such things as dividends, interest payments and license fees, the Swiss Finance Ministry said.
The plan is to start collecting data in 2017, then exchange it with EU member countries from the next year, it added.
Talks continue about swapping tax data with the United States and other countries, the ministry said in a statement.