Coutts casts doubt on German tax data purchase in Switzerland

Coutts, banker to the United Kingdom’s Queen, has cast doubt on press reports over the weekend that German authorities recently bought details of hundreds of Swiss accounts of the private bank’s clients, as part of a crackdown on tax evasion.

The report, surfacing in the Sunday Times among other publications in London, said officials in North Rhine Westphalia had paid €3.5m for a disc with details of about 1,000 German clients of Coutts’ branch in Zurich.

The report will do little to calm nerves of onshore European holders of Swiss bank accounts who have not, nor plan to, report their identity to their domestic tax authorities.

Berlin already has undeclared Swiss accounts of German taxpayers in its sights, and has sealed a tax remission deal with Bern for such accounts, starting in next year.

London has sealed a similar withholding tax deal for UK taxpayers, and has added an inheritance tax charge for those who still refuse to reveal their identity to UK tax authorities.

As governments in the Western world increasingly need tax revenue to plug public finances or to help pay down debt, US tax authorities have targeted Swiss banks directly, while the EU is trying to seal a definitive pan-European deal with Bern.

In a statement about the German matter, Coutts said: “We are aware of the continued media speculation regarding a potential breach of client data secrecy at Coutts.

“Following thorough investigation, we have no evidence to suggest any such breach has taken place. As we stated to media last year, we take the protection of client data extremely seriously.”

 

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