India to get 3rd set of Swiss bank details this month; info on real estate assets included for first time

In each of the last two years, Switzerland has shared details about nearly three million financial accounts with various jurisdictions, while the count is expected to be higher this year

India to get 3rd set of Swiss bank details this month; info on real estate assets included for first time

The Swiss National Bank is pictured in Bern, Switzerland, on July 2, 2018. Reuters file

New Delhi/Berne, September 12

India will get this month the third set of Swiss bank account details of its nationals under an automatic exchange of information pact with Switzerland and this will include for the first time the data about real estate properties owned by Indians there, officials said on Sunday.

Marking a key milestone in the Indian government’s fight against black money allegedly stashed abroad, India will get this month the complete information on flats, apartments and condominiums owned by Indians in Switzerland as also on earnings made from such properties to help it look into tax liabilities associated with those assets.

The move assumes significance on the part of Switzerland as well as the European Alpine nation is trying hard to reposition itself as a key global financial centre while warding off the long-persisting perception about the Swiss banking system being an alleged safe haven for black money.

While it would be the third time that India will get details about bank accounts and other financial assets held by Indians in Switzerland, it will be the first time that the information being shared with India would include information about the real estate assets.

While the Swiss government has agreed to share details of real estate assets, the information about contributions to non-profit organisations and other such foundations, as also details on investments in digital currencies still remain out of bounds from the automatic exchange of information framework, officials said.

Experts and those engaged in the business of attracting investments to Switzerland said the move would help clear misconceptions about all fund inflows into Swiss assets being illicit and would go a long way in establishing Switzerland as a preferred investment destination, including for real estate properties.

Himanshu, Founder and CEO of Switzerland For You SA, the parent firm of IDDI Investments, which is engaged in the business of attracting investments from India and other countries to Switzerland, including in startups and real estate, said transparency has its own virtues and the proposal of the Switzerland government to share information about property ownership of foreign clients with other countries including India is welcome.

“We find no valid reason for Swiss authorities to hide such information. After all, the ownership of property is not something which can be kept under wraps,” said the India-origin entrepreneur who goes by his first name only and is settled in Geneva for many years.

“Sharing of such information with other countries under AEOI will bring in more transparency and act as deterrence for those intending to buy Swiss properties from ill-gotten wealth. The move will go a long way in making Switzerland an attractive investment destination,” he added.

India had received the first set of details from Switzerland under AEOI (Automatic Exchange of Information) in September 2019. It was among 75 countries to get such information that year.

In September 2020, India received the second set of Swiss bank account details of its nationals and entities, along with 85 other recipient countries with whom Switzerland’s Federal Tax Administration (FTA) exchanged information on financial accounts within the framework of global standards on AEOI last year.

From this year, Switzerland’s Federal Council, the country’s top governing body, has decided to implement a key recommendation of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, under which Swiss authorities will also share details about investments made by foreigners in the Swiss real estate sector.

However, some other recommendations of the Global Forum, including about sharing of information on digital currency accounts and contributions made to foundations and non-profit organisations are yet to be accepted and therefore those details would not be shared by Switzerland with India or any other countries for now.

Hectic lobbying is underway globally to convince Switzerland to start sharing information about digital currency accounts and contributions made to non-profit entities as well.

In each of the last two years, Switzerland has shared details about nearly three million financial accounts with various jurisdictions, while the count is expected to be higher this year.

For the last two years, India has been among prominent countries with which Switzerland has shared details about financial accounts of clients of Swiss banks and various other financial institutions, while it is also expected to figure high this year with regard to details about real estate properties.

Resident and non-resident Indians, as well as Indian companies, would account for a sizeable number in the overall list of those figuring in this year’s exchange of information by Switzerland, officials privy to the development said.

Besides, Swiss authorities have already shared information about more than 100 Indian citizens and entities so far this year on receipt of requests for administrative assistance in cases involving probes into financial wrongdoings including tax evasion, the officials added. This count has been similar in the past few years. PTI

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