India’s fight against suspected black money stashed abroad will get a major boost this September in the form of first set of detailed financial information about all Indians having Swiss bank accounts, including those closed since last year.
The details that Switzerland would share with Indian tax authorities under the Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) framework would include account numbers, credit balance and all kinds of financial income for each Indian client of every Swiss financial institution. The first set in September would be followed by further despatches on a yearly basis, according to Switzerland’s Federal Department of Finance (FDF).
This would be in addition to details already being shared by Switzerland with India for nearly 100 Indian entities, including individuals and enterprises, on submission of prima facie evidence of their financial wrongdoings, under a bilateral pact for administrative assistance on tax matters. Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedhran also said in written reply to a Lok Sabha question on Wednesday that India will start receiving information on automatic basis from September about financial accounts held in Switzerland by Indian residents.
Besides, the India-Switzerland tax treaty facilitates receipt of information on request basis for cases under investigation, he said.”The information received on request or on automatic basis may include information about persons allegedly involved in corruption,” the minister said. Asked whether the government would reveal those names, the minister, however, said the “use and disclosure of the information” is governed by confidentiality provisions.Explaining the AEOI with India, which has come into force from January 1, 2018, the FDF said Switzerland, as a global wealth management hub, is committed to contributing to the integrity of the international financial system and to a level playing field.
“Switzerland applies the international transparency standards and therefore actively supports India in its fight against tax fraud and evasion,” it said.Under the AEOI framework, detailed financial information on all Indian residents that have an account maintained by a Swiss financial institution in 2018 will be provided for the first time to the Indian tax authorities in September 2019 and on a yearly basis thereafter.The information would include accounts that were closed during 2018, it said.
It is feared many Indians might have closed their accounts after a global crackdown on black money led to Switzerland buckling under pressure to open its banking sector for scrutiny to clear the long-held perception of Swiss banks being safe haven for undisclosed funds. However, the AEOI would only related to accounts that are officially in the name of Indian residents and they might include those used for business and other genuine purposes.In an explanatory dossier on AEOI, the FDF said if a taxpayer in country A (India) has a bank account in Switzerland, the bank would disclose the financial account data to the Swiss authorities, which would automatically forward the information to the tax authorities in the country A (India).
The Indian authority would thus be able to examine the foreign financial account data and tax necessary action, if required, against the taxpayer.The information would be grouped into three broad categories of identification, account and financial details. The identity details would be name, address, date of birth and tax identification number, while account information would include the account number as also name and address of the financial institution.
The financial information would include interest income, dividends and other financial revenue, receipts from certain insurance policies, credit balances and proceeds from the sale of financial assets.Besides India and Switzerland, a number of other countries have also signed the AEOI pacts as part of a global crackdown on tax evasion.
Financial account information was successfully exchanged by Switzerland with 36 jurisdictions for the first time in September 2018, while India would figure in the next set of such countries this year.Switzerland agreed to begin the automatic information exchange with India after months-long process, including framing of new laws and their passage in their Parliament and review of necessary legal framework in India on data protection and confidentiality.
In its latest status report on the AEOI implementation, Switzerland’s State Secretariat for International Finance (SIF) said India shared information with 58 partner countries during 2018 and it has “reasonable” confidentiality and data security laws. It found no “well-founded negative feedback” from other countries, individuals or companies to indicate that India has any relevant shortcomings in these laws.The SIF also found India to have a good network of over 100 partner countries with mutual assistance treaties. It also did not come across any documented findings of serious human rights violations due to taxation or data exchange.
Also, the Swiss Embassy in Delhi submitted that matters like the AEOI framework and the cooperation from Switzerland were being talked about positively in India in connection with the country’s fight against tax evasion and it was being seen as a significant tool to handle the black money problem.