Administrative Assistance In Tax Matters – Group Requests

Author:Mr Urs Feller, Danielle Wenger and Michaela Lemke
Profession:Prager Dreifuss
 
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Background

Recently, the Netherlands issued an administrative assistance request in the form of a so-called "group request" to the Swiss Federal Tax Administration (SFTA). In their group request, they asked the SFTA to provide them with data of (former) UBS clients who were domiciled in the Netherlands whose account balance had been over EUR 1'500 in the period between February 2013 and December 2014. The request was based on a letter by UBS allegedly sent to its Dutch domiciled clients that had come into the possession of the Dutch tax authorities. In that letter the bank allegedly informed these clients to provide to it evidence about their tax compliance or close their accounts.

The Dutch tax authorities took the position that every UBS client who had received such a letter might not be fully tax compliant in the eyes of the bank. Therefore, the Dutch tax authorities submitted a request for administrative assistance to the SFTA encompassing a potentially wide group of individuals. Based on the formulation of the group request, all bank customers to whom such a letter had been sent and who had not provided sufficient evidence of tax compliance to the bank were considered to be part of the targeted group.

The SFTA has in the meantime granted the Dutch group request. This is the first time since the US case with the UBS in 2009, which had a specific legal basis enacted by the Swiss parliament, that a group request has been submitted to SFTA and accepted. However, appeals against the decision of the SFTA are pending.

During the pendency of the appeal proceedings, the data of persons having filed such an appeal are not transmitted.

Procedure

The procedure in Switzerland with regard to such broad administrative assistance requests is usually as follows: The bank informs its concerned client(s) about the request and firstly asks them to either designate a representative or a current address in Switzerland. Following a request by the chosen representative of the affected client, access to the file is granted with the possibility of filing a statement. Within a deadline set by the SFTA, arguments can be submitted to the SFTA why administrative assistance should not be granted or limited to certain documents.

Thereafter, the SFTA issues its final order. If the request by the foreign tax authority is granted, the documents identified in the final order are transferred to the requesting authority, if no appeal is lodged by the client. An appeal is...

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