Thursday, November 24, 2011

France rejects (useless and immoral) Swiss tax deal

From Christian Chavagneux at Alternatives Économiques, who attended a press conference with Valérie Pécresse, France's budget minister:
"She has, finally, officially and firmly rejected any type of "Rubik" agreement with Swiss bankers which would let them preserve their clients' secrecy, in exchange for a withholding tax."
Well done France. As we have explained in our detailed report analysing the deals, the agreements that Switzerland has signed so far -- with the UK and with Germany -- won't raise even a small fraction of what has been promised. And we will continue to note this absolutely crucial point: we at TJN have directly contacted private tax advisers, the Swiss tax authorities, and the UK's HMRC, challenging them to explain where we have got our analysis wrong. Nobody, anywhere, either among those whom we have contacted, or elsewhere, has been able to show a single flaw in our analysis. We believe it is rock solid.

We're also pleased to see this:
"Gilles Carez (budget rapporteur) was also happy to see that the agreement between Switzerland and Germany is not certain to gain a parliamentary majority. We could add that some Länder (German states) have already implicitly said that they were thinking of continuing to buy CDs with data on tax evaders."
That's the way to do it! Go after the criminals, rather than sign cost agreements with them. The Americans have a similar idea. Why can the UK not take a similar route?

Switzerland, it seems, is getting nervous about its ridiculous deals. Here, from Bloomberg:
Germany must make the ratification of a tax agreement with Switzerland a “priority” as there is no alternative solution to a dispute over alleged tax evasion, the Swiss Bankers Association said.
So Swiss bankers, not content with helping wealthy Germans commit crimes, are now trying to tell the Germans to hurry up and sign a deal entrenching their secrecy. The sheer arrogance of it!

Why are they getting nervous? Well, partly because the Germans themselves don't like what they've signed. But partly because the European Union is now starting to bring its big guns to bear. And it is another sign of nervousness that the Swiss Finance Minister yesterday inexplicably cancelled a planned meeting with EU officials on the subject (see the NZZ reporting it here, in German, with a very rough and ready English translation here).

Let us now turn to another idiotic comment from the Swiss side. Again, in an older Bloomberg story reporting on TJN's analysis of the deal:
The Swiss Bankers’ Association, an industry body that held talks with authorities during drafting of the treaty, disagrees. “There is no legal way for a British person to remain entitled to his or her assets in Switzerland in any way while at the same time evading identification,” Sindy Schmiegel Werner, head of U.K. communications at the SBA, told Bloomberg News by e-mail.“There is no possibility to sidestep the scope of application of the existing tax agreement.”
Here, in essence, is what Sindy Schmiegel Werner is saying. "If you do get caught in the net, then you will not be able to escape." Well, that is a tautology. What Sindy Schmiegel Werner is not saying, of course, is that the trick is not to get caught in the net in the first place. That is the whole game! And the way to avoid that is to make sure that you are, legally speaking, 'not entitled to those assets.' You do that by, for instance, using slippery structures such as discretionary trusts, foundations, or insurance wrappers - where you still have full or partial control over the assets, but you are no longer, at least legally speaking, technically 'entitled' to those assets (in any way). So you can escape the Rubik deal, but still remain full or partial control. For more details on this see Sections 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3 of our report. For general background on trusts, see here.

If we didn't know the Swiss Bankers' Association better, we would call that an idiotic statement by Sindy Schmiegel Werner. But it is not idiotic - because they know exactly, precisely, what they are saying. This statement is a smokescreen designed to bamboozle the casual non-expert. They have not said that our report is wrong, not at all. They have merely used weasel words to try and avoid answering our challenge to them.

As we have already noted several times, the Swiss "Rubik" deals are morally wrong.

But worst of all, they are useless. That dog don't hunt.


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