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Switzerland starts sharing account data with foreign tax authorities

Switzerland's Federal Tax Administration exchanged, for the first time, financial account data with tax authorities in several countries at the end of September, under the global standard on the automatic exchange of information, which is designed to track down instances of tax fraud.

Although bank secrecy continues to exist in certain areas — for instance, Swiss authorities are not allowed to automatically check citizens' domestic bank accounts — Europeans would no longer be able to hide their wealth in Switzerland, beyond the reach of their tax authorities' investigations.

The initial exchange was slated to be with the EU nations in addition to Australia, Canada, Guernsey, Iceland, Isle of Man, Japan, Jersey, Norway and South Korea.

"The FTA sent information on around 2 million financial accounts to the partner states and received information in the millions from them," the Swiss authority said. It added that Cyprus and Romania are excluded, as they do not yet meet the international requirements on confidentiality and data security.

The agency said there was lag in the transmission of data to Australia and France as the countries failed to deliver data to the FTA for technical reasons; it added that it was also still awaiting data from Croatia, Estonia and Poland.

It has been decided that the automatic exchange of information will take place annually, and would extend to almost 80 partner states in 2019, subject to the states meeting the confidentiality and data security requirements.