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Another blow to Swiss secrecy

The Swiss Government said on 17 January it would be launching a public consultation on converting anonymous bearer shares in private companies into registered shares which have owners’ names attached.

The proposal would only apply to non-publicly listed companies, who would face financial penalties for non-compliance.

Opening the books

The consultation is the latest step taken by Swiss authorities to dismantle banking secrecy, a move that has seen tax evaders come clean in record numbers through fear of prosecution.

The registered share proposal, according to Reuters, has been recommended by an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) panel and aims to tackle tax avoidance through shell companies that hold bearer shares.

These shares allow a person to remain anonymous as they do not require any name or ownership information to be attached to them, including when they are transferred.

The Swiss Government says bearer shares currently represent only 12% of the share capital of companies, compared to 27% in 2014.

Global push

In July 2017, the OECD secretary-general, in a report to G20 leaders, said that a continued push towards global tax transparency had resulted in additional tax revenue of €85bn ($104bn, £75bn) being collected in the last eight years.

Britain banned companies from issuing bearer shares and convert existing ones into securities with documented ownership in 2015.

Tom Carnegie

Tom is a reporter for International Adviser, covering global news stories about the financial services industry. He joined Last Word Media in October 2016 after two years working as a senior reporter covering...

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