Switzerland ratcheted up the global hunt for tax evaders by publishing a tax evader list in its official legal newspaper, Bundesblatt. The tax evader list includes names, birth dates, and nationalities of people under investigation for tax fraud in their own countries.
The move comes at the request of Russia, France, Germany, India, the United States, and other countries.
The Swiss Federal Tax Administration is required by law to tell account holders that it is cooperating with international requests for information regarding tax investigations. According to the Swiss government, the publishing of the names ensures that any account holder who wasn’t informed by his or her bank about the handover of his or her account information has an opportunity to appeal the information handover in Swiss court.
Publishing a suspected tax evader list is nothing new in Switzerland. In 2014, former French football captain Marcel Desailly was named as a suspected tax cheat. The latest tax evader list so far has included Francisco José Ortiz von Bismarck, a descendant of former German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.
Switzerland, the world’s most notorious banking-haven, has tried to clean up its reputation as a global tax-evasion haven. Switzerland was one of the first countries to sign the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act in 2013 and, in March 2015, reached an agreement with the EU to help EU countries collect from tax fraudsters stashing cash in Switzerland. (Switzerland is not an EU country.)
In February, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released information about bank accounts in Switzerland. The disclosure, known as “Swiss Leaks,” uncovered secret bank records showing that London-based global banking giant HSBC’s branch in Geneva made massive profits between 2005 and 2007 by helping tax-evading clients.
It appears that the world is taking a cue from the United States and FATCA, which essentially turns foreign governments and banks into de facto IRS agents by requiring them to report their accounts held by American citizens. As FATCA’s rollout continues, the OECD has begun to discuss a similar global tax compliance act.