Swiss bank ‘bans advisers from Germany’

The tax row between Germany and Switzerland escalated on Wednesday with mounting speculation that Swiss bank Crédit Suisse had banned its customer advisers from travelling to Germany.

Swiss bank ‘bans advisers from Germany’
Photo: DPA

Swiss financial paper Börsen-Zeitung first reported the travel ban without naming sources, but Crédit Suisse denied the report, saying that it was based on an email sent by mistake.

The bank first ordered a travel ban on its employees in spring 2010, when revelations about a secret CD containing bank details of German tax evaders keeping money in Swiss banks first surfaced.

Some German politicians have said it is plausible that the bank has re-introduced a travel ban.

“This is good news,” Green Party financial spokesman Gerhard Schick told business daily newspaper Handelsblatt. “Crédit Suisse can do its honest business through its German branches. But if the Swiss headquarters are sending advisers abroad, it’s a sign it is deliberately not using this structure.”

The row re-ignited last weekend, when Swiss authorities issued an arrest warrant on three German tax inspectors who bought the stolen CDs from unnamed sources.

German tax authorities from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia defended their officials, saying they had done their duty.

In a separate development, Germany’s Bild daily, the most-read newspaper in Europe, said Wednesday it had filed a lawsuit against a Swiss minister amid a simmering tax evasion row between the two neighbours.

Enraged by Switzerland’s threat, the paper filed a suit against Justice Minister

Simonetta Sommaruga for attempted false imprisonment, coercion and complicity

to tax avoidance.

The Swiss authorities have taken aim at German tax officials “who were just doing their job,” Bild said, also criticising Switzerland for “standing by for decades as tax evaders stash away millions in their country.”

A proposal to assuage the row by forming a new tax agreement with Switzerland was dismissed by opposition leader Sigmar Gabriel of the centre-left Social Democrats.

“That sends a signal that the state can be bought,” he told the WAZ media group. “That’s a slap in the face to the taxpayer and the rule of law.”

The proposal would allow secret income that Germans keep in Switzerland to be taxed retrospectively – but without punishing the tax evaders.

On Tuesday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble called this a “sensible, respectful” solution, but the opposition says this simply lets evaders off.

The Local/DAPD/bk

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Germany and France extend Covid tax breaks for cross-border workers

Germany and France have agreed to extend the relaxation of tax rules for cross-border workers until the end of the year.

Cross-border workers commute by car but they can for now continue to work at home
Cross-border workers usually have to commute but can for now continue to work at home.. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

The agreements between France and the governments of Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and Italy avoids double taxation issues for anyone travelling across the French border to or from those countries in order to work.

During the pandemic, tax rules were eased to allow French cross-border employees, like their counterparts in Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, to work from home without having to change their tax status.

The deals, which were established at the beginning of the health crisis in March 2020, were due to end on September 30th – and would have plunged cross-border workers still working from home because of the health crisis into renewed uncertainty over their taxes.

The latest extension of these agreements means there’s no confusion over where a cross-border worker pays their taxes until December 31st – for example cross-border workers who work in Geneva but live in France, who normally pay their taxes and social security contributions in Switzerland. 

Under normal circumstances, anyone living in France who works in Switzerland can spend no more than 25 percent of their time working from home. If they exceed this time limit, they would have to pay these tax charges tin France rather than in Switzerland, which would be much higher.

The agreements between France and Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland “provide that days worked at home because of the recommendations and health instructions related to the Covid-19 pandemic may … be considered as days worked in the state where [workers] usually carry out their activity and therefore remain taxable,” according to the statement from the French Employment Ministry.

In the case of Luxembourg, days worked from home because of the health crisis are not counted in usual the 29 day limit.