* Switzerland, Singapore agree to share bank information
* OECD hails "end" of use of bank secrecy for tax evasion
* 47 countries sign the deal, some will implement it from
(Adds 2017 target, detail)
By Leigh Thomas
PARIS, May 6 Switzerland and Singapore joined on
Tuesday the growing ranks of countries agreeing to share tax
information in a major breakthrough against banking secrecy, the
Under the pledge signed by a total 47 countries, financial
information will automatically be shared on an annual basis
between governments, including taxpayers' bank balances,
dividends, interest income and sales proceeds used to calculate
capital gains tax.
"It's clearly the end of bank secrecy abused for tax
purposes," Pascal Saint-Amans, tax director at the Organisation
for Economic Cooperation and Development, told journalists at a
meeting held by the international think-tank in Paris.
"It means that governments can really assess the tax owed by
people who thought they could hide in other jurisdictions."
While most of the signatories had already committed to
sharing tax information on an automatic basis, the fact that
Switzerland and Singapore have now also signed up is a big step
in a fight against tax evasion that governments have intensified
since the global financial crisis.
Facing mounting pressure to dismantle a cherished culture of
banking secrecy, some of Switzerland's 300-plus private banks
had already signalled last year their readiness to work with
U.S. officials to crack down on wealthy Americans.
Switzerland is still the world's biggest offshore financial
centre with $2 trillion in assets. But Singapore is breathing
down its neck and a 2013 study showed finance professionals see
it soon overtaking the Alpine nation amid a global tax crackdown
and tighter regulation.
The OECD has devised a common standard to simplify the
exchange of financial details, which its 34 members and the 13
other countries agreed to adopt.
Financial companies will also be required to identify the
ultimate beneficiaries of shell companies, trusts and similar
legal arrangements that at present can be used to evade taxes.
Although the signatories did not officially commit to a
specific deadline, a group of early adopters is aiming to have
exchange of information up and running by 2017 using tax data
collected from the end of 2015.
Banks will have a year to adapt their information technology
systems while governments will have to modify their tax laws,
Foot-draggers will be spared formal sanctions, but
compliance will be monitored through international peer reviews
similar to existing arrangements for the exchange of tax
information on request.
The shift to an international standard on automatic sharing
of information has been accelerated by the U.S. Foreign Account
Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) which forces banks outside the United
States to give Washington details of foreign accounts held by
A U.S. Treasury Department spokeswoman said on Monday that
Singapore had reached a tax information-sharing agreement with
the United States, set to take effect on July 1, under a new law
meant to combat offshore tax dodging by
Countries have said that once they agreed to share
information with the United States, other large countries
pressured them for a similar deal.
(Writing by Leigh Thomas and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Mark
John and Catherine Evans)