Swiss banks' US tax-evasion deal on hold

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Swiss banks' US tax-evasion deal on hold

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Switzerland’s lower house of parliament has stalled progress on a tax-evasion deal with the US government.

Washington is chasing wealthy Americans with cash in secret accounts in banks there.

The Swiss government wants to pass a law allowing banks to sidestep the country’s strict secrecy rules and disclose some account holders’ details to US prosecutors.

Banks will not be allowed to reveal client names, but the proposal would give them a one-year window to hand over information including names of third parties such as accountants and tax lawyers, which should be sufficient for US officials to identify tax dodgers.

The law was passed by the upper house of parliament, but the lower house is refusing to discuss it as a matter of principle.

The move gives the government less time to fast-track the draft law before the end of parliament’s current session on Friday.

The US is threatening to bring criminal charges against more than a dozen Swiss banks unless the legislation is passed by the end of this week.

If parliament does kill the bill by refusing to debate it again, the Swiss government does have the power to approve the data transfer with an executive order, as a last resort.