France has list of tax suspects in Switzerland

Budget Minister warns that account holders could face legal proceedings if they fail to put their tax affairs in order by the end of the year.

Paris has obtained a list of 3,000 French taxpayers with bank accounts in Switzerland, days after the two countries signed a double taxation agreement, the French budget minister said, according to a newspaper Sunday. Budget Minister Eric Woerth warned that account holders could face legal proceedings if they fail to put their tax affairs in order by the end of the year, the weekly Journal du Dimanche reported. The accounts contain some €3 billion, "some of which is very likely linked to tax evasion," Woerth was quoted saying. Those who come forward by December 31 would likely have to pay back taxes and any applicable penalties, but would not face any charges, Woerth reportedly said. He ruled out a blanket amnesty for tax evaders, saying "that would be an indefensible injustice." The list - which includes the names, account numbers and balances of some 3,000 accounts at three banks - had been obtained thanks to anonymous tips and to the banks' collaboration, Woerth said in the paper, without naming the banks. Swiss officials declined to comment on the matter. In a separate interview Sunday with RTL radio, Woerth said he would meet in the coming days with officials from all banks operating in France to request they provide lists of clients who have transferred money to foreign accounts. Earlier this month Switzerland agreed to give the United States the names of 4,450 American taxpayers suspected of setting up secret offshore accounts with the help of Swiss bank UBS AG. The one-off deal was part of a settlement to end a long-running US investigation against UBS, which became the focus of Washington's efforts to crack down on tax evaders. European countries, led by France and Germany, have demanded similar access to information about their citizens with Swiss bank accounts. A meeting of the 30-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in April agreed to impose economic sanctions against those countries that refuse to abide by the Paris-based watchdog group's guidelines for tax information exchange. The Swiss government has since pledged to sign a dozen new or revised tax information exchange agreements, but maintains that the country's banking secrecy rules will remain. In the interview with JDD newspaper, Woerth estimated the French government loses about €50b. annually due to tax evasion.