updated 1:01 PM CEST, Apr 11, 2021

April 13 deadline for 29 Swiss banks to forward U.S. client data under FATCA, Switzerland tax authority warns

Zurich, Switzerland Zurich, Switzerland

Some 29 Swiss banks, including UBS, Credit Suisse, Julius Baer and J. Safra Sarasin, have been warned that they have until April 13 to provide the U.S. tax authorities with information on their U.S. account-holders, as part of Switzerland's agreement to comply with the American anti-tax evasion law known as FATCA.

The warning came last month, in a statement posted on the website of Switzerland's Federal Tax Administration, that was picked up by such media organizations as Le Temps, a Lausanne newspaper and news website. 

The list of banks to which the warning was sent, which may be viewed by clicking here, follows on from a similar request made to 13 other institutions last December. As reported, the Swiss Federal Tax Administration formally notified 12 Swiss banks and one fiduciary firm on Dec.1 that they had until Dec. 20 to provide the Swiss authorities with data on certain of their American account-holders, as required by FATCA.

(Also as reported at that time, a financial news website, Finews.com, reported that many of the banks named on the December list, including Bank Vontobel AG and Mirabud & Cie, had been among an unknown number of Swiss institutions that had "elected not to take part" in a program that had been agreed in 2012 between the U.S. and Swiss governments, whereby Swiss banks would be able to come clean on any then-undeclared U.S. accounts, and thereby avoid prosecution.)

FATCA, formally known as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, was aimed mainly at preventing tax evasion by U.S. citizens. Signed into law in 2010, it came into force in 2014, and obliges non-U.S. banks and financial institutions around the world to report to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) the key account details of all the accounts they hold above a certain amount on behalf of any American citizens.

This is because under U.S. law, all Americans are considered to have tax obligations, even if they don't live in the U.S.

Institutions that fail to comply with FATCA are potentially subject to a 30% withholding tax on any of their own Stateside transactions. 

The introduction of FATCA was closely followed by a U.S. Department of Justice action against certain Swiss banks, threatening them with prosecution unless they made separate disclosures of their U.S. clients and paid financial penalties.

The Le Temps article about the latest Swiss Federal Tax Administration call for U.S. client information to be submitted noted that "group requests," such as the one last December and another one in January (naming the same banks as the December call for account data), were made possible by a 2019 amendment to the double taxation treaty between Switzerland and the United States, which it said, quoting a Leax Avocats lawyer based in Neuchâtel, had enabled Washington "to launch group requests" of this type, "in an attempt to identify recalcitrant clients".

Among the other banks named by the Swiss Federal Tax Administration on its latest list are Aargauische Kantonalbank; AXA Leben AG; Lombard Odier & Cie SA; BNP Paribas (Suisse) SA; Bordier & Cie; EFG Bank SA; Falcon Private Bank AG; Société Générale Private Banking (Suisse) SA; UBS AG; and Zürcher Kantonalbank.