Swiss Bankers Respond To Privacy Initiative
The Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) has published a new report on the “Yes to the protection of privacy” initiative, which criticizes plans to enshrine bank-client confidentiality in the federal constitution.
The “Yes to the protection of privacy” initiative was launched in March 2013 by a cross-party committee headed by banker and Member of Parliament Thomas Matter. The popular initiative was filed with 117,596 signatures in September 2014. The aim is to ensure citizens’ privacy in Switzerland, but would not impact Switzerland’s commitments on the automatic exchange of information.
Bank-client confidentiality is provided for in the Banking Act and Stock Exchange Act, which establish professional confidentiality comparable to that between doctors and their patients, lawyers and their clients, and priests, for disclosures during confessions. According to the SBA, this legislation is designed to protect personal privacy, not to protect assets from the tax authorities.
The SBA commissioned René Matteotti, Professor for Swiss, European, and International Tax Law at the University of Zurich, to draft an in-depth report on the initiative’s potential impact. According to the report, the initiative would shield delinquent taxpayers, creating an incentive for those who behave in a dishonest manner.
Matteotti said that the initiative would increase the burden of responsibility and liability for banks and their employees. The SBA maintains that banks are not “the tax police,” and are not responsible for their clients’ tax situations.
The SBA said that it therefore rejects the initiative in its current form.
The SBA has previously said that the insertion of a separate bank-client confidentiality article into the constitution is unnecessary, because the protection of privacy is already sufficiently enshrined.