Automatic exchange of information (AEOI)
Status as at April 2018
Cross-border tax evasion should be prevented with the help of the new global standard for the automatic exchange of information (AEOI). A new statutory basis had to be created in Switzerland in order to enable information to be exchanged automatically. The legal foundations for introducing the automatic exchange of information were adopted by Parliament in the 2015 winter session. They entered into force on 1 January 2017. Switzerland will exchange account data with the EU from 2018.
Combating tax evasion
In the wake of the financial and debt crisis, combating tax evasion worldwide has become an important issue which is broadly pursued by the global community. In July 2014, the OECD Council adopted the new global standard for the international automatic exchange of information in tax matters. During the plenary meeting of the Global Forum in October 2014, almost 100 countries committed themselves to introducing this new global standard. Approximately 50 states have announced that they will start to exchange in 2017 and the remainder will follow in 2018. Domestic bank client confidentiality in Switzerland is not affected by the AEOI.
The global standard
Switzerland actively participated in the preparation of the global standard. It was important for the Federal Council that the standard satisfied exacting requirements in terms of compliance with data protection and the principle of speciality. Consequently, data may be used solely for tax purposes. The standard should also guarantee reciprocity and encompass robust regulations for identifying the beneficial owners of all types of legal entity, including trusts and domiciliary companies.
What information will be exchanged?
The standard applies for both natural persons and legal entities. The actual beneficial owners of the account have to be identified in application of the OECD standard and the FATF recommendations. The information to be transmitted includes account and tax identification numbers, as well as the names, addresses and dates of birth of taxpayers abroad with an account in a country other than the country of origin, all types of income and account balances.
Statutory basis and implementation
In order to be able to introduce the AEOI standard, the Federal Assembly adopted the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters (administrative assistance convention), the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement on the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information (MCAA) and the Federal Act on the International Automatic Exchange of Information in Tax Matters (AEOI Act) on 18 December 2015. The Ordinance on the International Automatic Exchange of Information in Tax Matters (AEOI Ordinance), which contains the implementing provisions for the AEOI Act, was adopted by the Federal Council on 23 November 2016. The legal basis for the AEOI was thus created and entered into force on 1 January 2017.
The AEOI can be implemented by means of a bilateral treaty or on the basis of the MCAA. The MCAA is based on the OECD/Council of Europe Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters. It makes provision for the automatic exchange of information being activated bilaterally.