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Swiss Government Endorses US FATCA Deal

At its meeting on April 10, 2013, the Swiss Federal Council approved the agreement concluded with the United States to facilitate compliance with its Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), and forwarded the agreement to parliament for its approval.

The Swiss Government, commenting on its decision to endorse the agreement, said that while the United States' extraterritorial legislation had not been well received, it was nevertheless acknowledged that it was favorable to sign an Intergovernmental Agreement with the United States to simplify compliance with the new regime for Swiss financial institutions.

FATCA requires foreign financial institutions to register with US tax authorities and report information on accounts housing the assets of US taxpayers. The Intergovernmental Agreement concluded on February 14, 2013, between the United States and Switzerland enables Swiss financial institutions to more simply exchange information with the Internal Revenue Service by way of a centralized authority in Switzerland.

The Government pointed out in particular that the US-Swiss agreement ensures that accounts held by US persons with Swiss financial institutions are disclosed to the US tax authorities either with the consent of the account holder or through normal administrative assistance channels. Consequently, information will not be transfered automatically in the absence of consent, and instead will be exchanged only on the basis of the administrative assistance clause in the two countries' double taxation agreement.

As the United States will phase in FATCA from January 1, 2014, Swiss financial institutions will be forced to implement FATCA from this date, irrespective of an agreement between Switzerland and the United States, if they do not want to be excluded from the US capital market. The agreed simplifications will not apply if there is no agreement, the Government clarified.

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