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Tax Havens

DW staff (th)October 21, 2008

Germany's finance minister has called on Switzerland to be added to a blacklist of tax havens. Peer Steinbrueck said the alpine country has refused to cooperate on taxation issues.

Swiss flag and mountain
Switzerland boycotted the meetingImage: Bilderbox

As countries met to draw up a new "black list" of international tax havens, Steinbrueck has advocated adding Germany's neighbor to the list.

"Switzerland should be on the blacklist and not the green list" of countries that cooperate on taxation issues, Steinbrueck said following a meeting in Paris on Tuesday, Oct. 21.

The list will cite those countries unwilling to cooperate with international investigators looking for companies and individuals who avoid paying taxes on their incomes by depositing their money in offshore bank accounts.

The issue has been made more pressing because of the global finance crisis.

Ministers and representatives from 18 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) met to discuss the problem of tax havens. Noticeably absent from the meeting were Luxembourg, Austria and Switzerland, which had boycotted the gathering.

Countries complain of lost tax revenue

Tuesday's conference was convened by France and Germany. The French government estimates that its annual budget is deprived of between 30 to 40 billion euros ($40-53 billion) because of offshore tax havens.

French Budget Minister Eric Woerth said, "banking secrecy has its limits. Switzerland has made progress... but we must take matters farther."

Steinbruck said that tax evasion also poses social problems.

"If we are not careful, our social and economic systems will lose their legitimacy," Steinbrueck warned.