Greece. Government proposes tax amnesty for funds parked in Switzerland

BILLION. Greece has proposed a tax amnesty in an effort to collect revenue on billions of euros that its citizens are believed to have quietly stashed in Swiss bank accounts.

The plan, according to the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper report, which still needs Greek parliamentary approval and a final accord with Switzerland, is to levy a flat 21% tax on such assets to make them legitimate, raising millions that the government in Athens desperately needs, the Sunday paper said, citing unidentified sources.

« We welcome the fact that Greece has presented a proposal to resolve this, » it quoted Mario Tuor, communications director at the Swiss state secretariat for international financial issues (SIF), as saying.

Asked about the report, a finance ministry spokesman in Berne said: « We are in talks but nothing is decided yet. »

The paper cited wildly varying estimates that Greeks may have parked between 2 billion and 200 billion euros ($2.2 billion to $220 billion) at Swiss banks, which have been trying to shake off their image as havens for those seeking to avoid the tax collector.

The amount should become clear by 2018, when Switzerland is supposed to begin automatically sharing information with European Union countries on cross-border accounts.

Switzerland had suggested an amnesty programme along the lines of those introduced by countries such as Italy, the paper said. The goal was to ensure the money gets taxed and is not transferred to an uncooperative offshore financial centre before the automatic data exchange starts up.

It said Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis had personally taken part in talks on settling the issue, which has dragged on for years. Should the Greek parliament approve, a final round of talks with Switzerland would nail down technical details, including how banks can encourage Greek clients to reveal their wealth, it said.

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