The Swiss tax office (FTA) has agreed to a request from the Netherlands to hand over information about Dutch nationals with accounts at the biggest banking group in Switzerland, UBS. This is the first time the FTA has accepted a group request from a country other than the United States. The request is made possible by the revised Federal Act on International Administrative Assistance instead of requiring specific client names.
The request target Dutch nationals who have had more than 1500 EUR on their accounts over the past two years and did not reply to a letter from the Swiss authorities about potential illicit savings. The request is extremely broad and smells like a 'fishing expedition': too vague. The Netherlands basis its claim on a tax treaty (2011) with Switzerland on the exchange of tax information. But in that tax treaty nothing is settled on the group requests.
The tax treaty
On November 9, 2011, the tax treaty between the Netherlands and Switzerland, that was signed in February 2010, entered into force. It will apply to tax years and tax periods that commence on or after January 1, 2012. Consequently, Switzerland agreed to exchange information in tax matters if so requested; a stance that also applies to its relations with the Netherlands. This exchange of information not only relates to the application of the tax treaty, but also to requests for information regarding the tax levied on the taxpayer. Switzerland may no longer use banking secrecy as a ground for refusal once the treaty enters into force. Fishing expeditions are not permitted, and the treaty countries are also not required to automatically or spontaneously exchange information. The new provision for the exchange of information will apply to requests made on or after November 9, 2011. These requests must concern information relating to facts arising after February 28, 2010. The Netherlands and the Swiss authorities signed an additional agreement at the end of October 2011. To receive information, the Dutch Revenue does not necessarily have to know the name of the party or bank in question. Other data, for example a bank account number, are sufficient for a request for information to be made. The additional agreement also applies as of November 9, 2011.
This case raises the question of whether other states will start to hand in group requests as well. There are a total of 27 states which have a double tax treaty with an administrative assistance clause which permits group requests.
Press release: Bund will UBS-Kundendaten nach Holland liefern http://www.handelszeitung.ch/unternehmen/bund-will-ubs-kundendaten-nach-holland-liefern-913504