Germany, Switzerland sign “supplemented” tax agreement (update)

Media charges of tense relations over tax issues denied by both governments

German political world, media reactions mixed

BERN, SWITZERLAND – German and Switzerland signed a “Supplemental Protocol” to their September 2011 tax agreement, Thursday 5 April. Bern issued a statement noting that “The essence of the agreement remains unchanged, that the taxation of German capital assets in Switzerland is ensured for the present and the future and thereby places relations between Switzerland and Germany on a forward-looking basis.” The new protocol and agreement are now ready for the countries parliaments to review.

The German government, like the Swiss government earlier in the week, denied press stories that relations are strained over another tax issue, arrest warrants issued by canton Zurich’s attorney general for three German tax collectors, linked to data that was stolen from a Swiss bank in 2008.

But in Germany, the political left reacted negatively while the media reaction was “more nuanced”, reports Swiss public broadcasting, adding that there is little likelihood yet more concessions on the part of Switzerland would muster support here.

The details of the new agreement, as listed in the Swiss statement, are likely to prove interesting to other governments looking for ways to force their citizens to declare tax money they have hidden in Switzerland:

  • “After the agreement has come into force, inheritances which occur will be covered. In the case of inheritance, heirs must consent either to collection of a 50% tax or disclosure.
  • “In the case of flat-rate taxation of the past, the size of the tax burden has been increased. Instead of being between 19% and 34% as it was up to now, the tax rate is now at least 21% and no more than 41%.
  • “In addition the number of possible requests for information after entry into force of the agreement have been increased from a maximum of 999 to a maximum of 1,300 within a period of two years. This option extends and supplements the exchange of information according to the OECD minimum standard.
  • “With the entry into force of the agreement on 1 January 2013, German taxpayers will no longer be able to shift assets out of Switzerland to third countries without notification. The appointed deadline was brought forward from 31 May 2013 to 1 January 2103.
  • “It was made clear that interest payments which are covered by the Taxation of Savings Income Agreement with the European Union or will be covered by this in future, will be excluded from the scope of the agreement. In this way, the concerns of the EU Commission regarding compatibility with EU law have been removed as was the case with the tax agreement between Switzerland and the UK.
  • “The regulations on the distribution in Germany of the revenue generated will be taken from the tax agreement. Within the scope of a German legislative procedure concerning the one-off flat-rate tax payment a higher proportion of the German Länder and communes will receive payment than would have resulted from the distribution key in the case of tax on investment income.
  • “Individual models which come under the anti-abuse provision will now be described. In addition, monitoring implementation of the agreement by the competent Swiss authority and by an independent auditing company and the appointment of German Länder representatives on the so-called joint commission has been specifically laid down.”