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Switzerland, US sign treaty on sharing tax evader information

[JURIST] The US and Switzerland signed a treaty [text, PDF] Wednesday that would increase the amount of information shared between the two nations on would-be tax evaders. The agreement was constructed in accordance with Article 26 of the Model Tax Convention [text, PDF], which states in relevant part:

The competent authorities of the Contracting States shall exchange such information as is foreseeably relevant for carrying out the provisions of this Convention or to the administration or enforcement of the domestic laws concerning taxes of every kind and description imposed on behalf of the Contracting States.

On Thursday, the Swiss government signed a similar agreement [SwissInfo report] with Qatar, which resulted in the removal of Switzerland from a list of international tax havens maintained by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) [official website]. The OECD called Swiss progress meaningful [press release], but said that implementation of new policies is the most important aspect of meeting OECD guidelines.

The new cooperative agreement between the US and Switzerland comes one month after former UBS [corporate website] banker Bradley Birkenfeld was sentenced to 40 months in prison [JURIST report] for helping a California real estate developer hide $200 million to avoid paying taxes. One day before that sentencing, a Swiss banker and lawyer were indicted in US federal court [JURIST report] for helping clients hide assets. Earlier in August, the US reached a preliminary agreement with Switzerland over the identification of anonymous accounts [JURIST report] in Swiss banks, which would aid US officials in identifying those who seek to evade taxes.

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