Greece and Switzerland agree to cooperate against tax evasion

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Tax evasion is a hot issue both in Greece and internationally in the wake of the HSBC Swissleaks. As a result, the EU and its individual member states are working towards greater cooperation with Switzerland to combat the problem of lost state revenues.

On 26 March Swiss State Secretary Jacques de Watteville met with Greek Minister of State Nikos Pappas to resume discussions between the two countries with a view to increasing cooperation to combat tax crime. It was agreed that transmission mechanisms needed to be strengthened, whilst the main theme of discussion was the preparation of the planned automatic exchange of information from 2017/2018 in the framework of a new EU agreement with Switzerland agreed just last week.

On 19 March, the EU and Switzerland concluded a new tax agreement which aims to increase tax transparency by guaranteeing an automatic annual exchange of data between Switzerland, and all of the EU member states. It will come into force on 1 January 2017. Leading up to this date, Switzerland is keen to work with Greece to prevent capital outflows to other uncooperative financial centres.

Since 2012 a revised double taxation agreement between Switzerland and Greece has been in place, allowing for the exchange of information upon request. According to the Balkan Independent News Agency , who cited government sources, the Swiss authorities expressed their wonder at the lack of interest of the previous government, as only fifteen requests had been received for the transfer of tax-related data.

Greece’s new government has committed to fighting tax evasion and corruption in a bid to raise funds for the state and to spread the burden of the crisis, which is currently falling disproportionately on the poor as wages and pensions have been cut, and taxes on lower incomes raised much more than those on higher incomes (337.7% as compared to 9% ). German newspaper Die Welt recently accused Greece of not acting on opportunities to recover billions in lost tax, “The Greek government has done nothing for a year to recover supposedly untaxed assets of Greek citizens in Switzerland. There is an invitation extending from 2014 by the Swiss Secretariat for International Financial Matters (SIF) to track the money and transfer it to Athens,”

The Press Project