The agreement on the automatic exchange of information (AEOI) in tax matters will replace the taxation of savings agreement with the EU that has been in force since 2005 and will apply for all 28 EU member states. The OECD's global AEOI standard has been included in full in the new agreement. The AEOI agreement is reciprocal, which means that the EU member states and Switzerland have the same undertakings towards one another with regard to the exchange of account information. Withholding tax exemption for cross-border payments of dividends, interest and royalties between related entities has been taken over from the existing taxation of savings agreement. This is in the interests of Switzerland as a business location.
The agreement is supplemented by a joint statement from the contracting parties indicating that it will be sought to have the agreement enter into force on 1 January 2017. This is in line with the statement made by the Federal Council in the autumn of 2014 to the Chair of the Global Forum, whereby the Swiss government intends to introduce the automatic exchange of information in 2017 and exchange data for the first time in 2018. To date, approximately 100 countries, including all major financial centres, have committed themselves to introducing this global standard.
The agreement is in line with the negotiation mandate adopted by the Federal Council on 8 October 2014. It is not possible to formally link other tax and financial issues to the introduction of the global standard. However, the European Commission has stressed to its members the importance of regularisation of the past and their own interests in such regularisation before the automatic exchange of information is introduced. Various EU member states have launched regularisation programmes or stepped them up in recent years. Germany's non-punishable voluntary disclosure is one such example. Following the signing of an agreement on tax issues with Italy on 23 February 2015, regularisation of the past with neighbouring countries and the main EU member states can be considered done to a large extent.
Discussions are also under way with regard to improved market access in the EU. On 18 March 2015, an initial exploratory meeting on the feasibility and desirability of a financial services agreement took place in Brussels between State Secretary Jacques de Watteville and EU Director-General Jonathan Faull.
The agreement was initialled today in Brussels by the two negotiators State Secretary Jacques de Watteville and EU Director-General Heinz Zourek, as well as by Ambassador Dominique Paravicini, Deputy Director of the Directorate for European Affairs (DEA), on the Swiss side. It should be signed in the coming weeks. In Switzerland, the agreement will then be submitted to Parliament for approval. It is subject to an optional referendum. The agreement's entry into force in 2017 is conditional on completion of the approval processes in Switzerland and the EU by then.
Aside from the EU, Switzerland is seeking to achieve the automatic exchange of information with the United States and other countries in accordance with the Federal Council negotiation mandate. Corresponding negotiations are under way. The first agreement was signed with Australia on 3 March 2015.
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