Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Swiss Order Credit Suisse to Disclose U.S. Account Information

The Swiss government has ordered Credit Suisse, the country’s second-largest bank, to hand over information on undeclared bank accounts held by U.S. taxpayers, a move that represents the latest escalation of U.S. efforts to tear down Switzerland’s previously impenetrable wall of banking secrecy.

Credit Suisse AG, Switzerland's second-largest bank, has begun notifying certain U.S. clients suspected of offshore tax evasion that it intends to turn over their names to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, with the help of Swiss tax authorities.

The bank has been asked by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to provide the requested information in line with an existing 1996 bilateral tax treaty between Switzerland and the United States, a Credit Suisse spokesman confirmed Nov. 8.

Credit Suisse mailed letters Nov. 2 to certain U.S. clients notifying them that the bank has been ordered to deliver information to the Swiss authorities, the spokesman said. The clients have also been told they must provide the Swiss authorities the name of a person authorized in Switzerland to receive legal documents and orders on their behalf.

The move by Credit Suisse to disclose American client names and account information is the latest twist in a showdown between Switzerland and the United States over the battered tradition of Swiss bank secrecy.

U.S. authorities, who suspect tens of thousands of wealthy Americans of evading billions of dollars in taxes through Swiss private banks in recent years, are conducting a widening criminal investigation into scores of Swiss banks, including Credit Suisse.

It is unclear how many American clients of Credit Suisse hold private banking accounts that have gone undeclared to U.S. tax authorities.

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