Berlin calls for data exchange on tax havens

German finance minister advocates closer co-operation between EU member states

German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble said that at EU level he would push for an automatic financial information exchange between member states. Photograph: Eric Luke

German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble said that at EU level he would push for an automatic financial information exchange between member states. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble has led calls for leaked information on offshore tax havens to be handed over to national tax authorities.

The “Offshore Leaks” revelations have targeted leading German financial institution, Deutsche Bank and its reported involvement in helping wealthy customers avoid tax.

“I welcome these reports because they will increase pressure on what we know to be complicated constructions, many of which are at least in a legal grey area,” said Mr Schäuble on German radio. “We’ve long called for international action to tackle this problem. We have to increase the pressure to increase the pressure and readiness to co-operate of those who are more hesitant.”

Mr Schäuble said that at EU level he would push for an automatic financial information exchange between member states; at international level, he said he would renew efforts to “dry out tax havens by fighting the erosion of tax base”.


Greater sanctions
Social Democrat Peer Steinbrück, Mr Schäuble’s predecessor and the man hoping to unseat Chancellor Angela Merkel in September elections, urged greater sanctions against banks involved in tax evasion.

“In extreme cases, it could also lead to them losing their banking licences,” he said.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung , one of two German media organisations involved in the worldwide research effort, said it “could not and would not” supply the data to German tax authorities as doing so might compromise informants’ identities.

“The press is not an assistant to police, prosecutors or tax investigations,” said the newspaper.

The Munich-based newspaper said the “offshore leaks” files contained information on more than 130,000 people worldwide. Their coverage focused on the tax affairs of recently-deceased German playboy Gunter Sachs, ex-husband of Brigitte Bardot. The newspaper also published claims that a Deutsche Bank subsidiary based in Singapore helped more than 300 clients invest in tax havens globally.

A bank spokesman said it offered “services for wealthy customers on the basis that the customers have their tax affairs in order and comply fully with all tax laws and declaration obligations”.

On the website of DBoffshore.com the bank advertises opportunities in tax havens such as the Cayman and Channel Islands as well as Mauritius, and promises to “fulfil special requests through professional service”.

A top German tax expert suggested yesterday that wealthy Germans had approximately €400 billion banked in tax havens around the world.

The offshore leaks revelations follow active pursuit of tax evaders in recent years by the German authorities. Federal and local governments in Germany have authorised several purchases of stolen data sets of account holders in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. An agreement on a one-off levy on untaxed German funds in Swiss banks failed to come into effect after German opposition parties rejected it as too lenient on tax evaders.