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President Joe Biden called Switzerland a tax haven - and the Swiss government is not happy about it

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President Joe Biden waves at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., as he boards Air Force One to return to Washington, Thursday, April 29, 2021.
President Joe Biden waves at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., as he boards Air Force One to return to Washington, Thursday, April 29, 2021.   -   Copyright  Evan Vucci/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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Swiss authorities are taking issue with U.S. President Joe Biden's comment that many companies use Switzerland, and two other territories, as tax havens, with the Swiss Federal Department of Finance calling such a claim “inappropriate and completely out of date.”

The pushback reported in Swiss media on Friday comes after Biden said in his speech to Congress on Wednesday that “a lot of companies also evade taxes through tax havens in Switzerland and Bermuda and the Cayman Islands” — part of his call for the rich and corporations to pay their fair share of tax.

“Switzerland considers this highlighting of Switzerland as a tax haven by the USA as inappropriate and completely out of date,” said spokeswoman Isabelle Roesch of the Swiss finance department in an email. “Switzerland meets all international standards in tax matters.”

Switzerland long had a reputation as a haven for tax dodgers to squirrel away their money to avoid fiscal authorities abroad. But Swiss authorities have been at pains to try to change the country’s image.

Roesch said “international bodies” have since 2019 repeatedly affirmed that Switzerland fulfills all international tax standards, including on country-by-country reporting and information exchange. She said a Swiss tax reform that year abolished “all tax models criticized by the OECD" group of rich countries.

“The OECD has confirmed this in writing to Switzerland in 2020,” Roesch added. “We reported this to the U.S. Treasury last week, as this is not the first time the new administration has made these statements.”

She said Finance Minister Ueli Maurer would let U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen know the information “at the earliest opportunity.”

While Biden called out offshore tax havens, anti-corruption campaigners say the U.S. should also scrutinise rules that help evaders closer to home.

The London-based Tax Justice Network last year named the United States as the second-biggest enabler of financial secrecy worldwide, after the Cayman Islands and ahead of Switzerland.

Delaware, the state that Biden represented in the Senate for 36 years, has an international reputation for helping companies and wealthy individuals hide the true beneficiaries of anonymous shell companies registered there.