Minister criticises purchase of data on tax evaders
GERMAN FINANCE minister Wolfgang Schäuble has criticised the purchase of stolen information on German tax evaders who use Swiss bank accounts.
The state of North Rhine-Westphalia has reportedly spent €3.5 million to obtain a CD from an undisclosed Swiss source containing 1,000 names of German clients of the Zürich branch of RBS Coutts, the private banking arm of Royal Bank of Scotland.
The bank said at the weekend there were no indications that its customer information had been compromised but said a data leak could not be ruled out.
Reports of the latest apparent purchase of tax evader data calls into question the future of a German-Swiss treaty regulating tax evasion.
It was signed by both sides last September and has been ratified by the Swiss parliament; outstanding on the German side is backing of the Bundesrat upper house, where the government lacks a majority.
Mr Schäuble declined to comment on the latest stolen data reports but said yesterday the controversial practice can be only a “temporary crutch and offer no long-term basis for satisfactory taxation”.
His spokesman described the tax treaty, agreed last autumn between Berlin and Bern, as “a correct, substantial and helpful” route to resolving outstanding tax issues that existed between the two countries.
That deal, agreed after several controversial purchases of stolen tax-evader data, is scheduled to come into effect on January 1st, 2013.
It obliges Swiss banks to deduct taxes from the accounts of German clients automatically – without having to identify them – and pass the proceeds to Berlin.
In addition, the deal allows tax evaders to make a once-off lump sum payment to regularise their financial affairs. The long-term intention of the treaty is not just to render such data deals irrelevant but to outlaw the “active purchase” of such information.
Describing the treaty as being too lenient on tax evaders, the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens are blocking ratification in the upper house and demanding fresh negotiations – a demand that has been rejected by both Berlin and Bern.
It is an SPD-Green government in NRW that has reportedly bought the latest stolen data-set. Similar purchases in the past have netted about €500 million extra tax revenue for the state government in Düsseldorf.
“The tax treaty in its current form offers tax evaders continued huge loopholes and is not possible to ratify,” said Norbert Walter- Borjans, NRW finance minister, who reportedly authorised the latest data purchase.