Studio Guzzi – news from May 20, 2016

Switzerland is not trending anymore. The significant disappearance of the bank secret, the exchanges of international information, the investigations on banks and trust companies, the consequences of the voluntary disclosure: for a few years, the image of Switzerland has changed, and it is not the Europe’s discreet safe anymore.

On the 19th of May 2016, the Protocol regarding the exchange of tax information between Italy and Switzerland (L. 69/2016) went into effect and, except for a theoretical, popular referendum in the Helvetic Confederation, starting from January 1, 2018 Switzerland will entirely exchange information with other countries; the information will be provided for the previous relations too, going back up to the 23/2/2015 (the day of the Protocol’s signature).

For the time being, the so-called fishing expedition (the trawling of alleged tax evaders) is still forbidden, but Switzerland will not have the possibility to refuse to communicate information «just because they are owned by a bank, another financial institute, an envoy or someone working as an agent or a fiduciary» anymore.

Other events of a high-media impact have been added to this gradual process of international transparency: the Panama papers from the previous months, along with other surveys, have created some tested structures of off-shore societies, often organized by Swiss fiduciary societies in order to seize national revenues as taxation. The same “procedure of voluntary collaboration for the surfacing and the return of capitals owned abroad, or voluntary disclosure (art. 1 L.186/2014,  alarmed banks and fiduciaries as well, with consequences reaching the limits of illegality: some account holders from Swiss banks had to appeal to the court, which had to intervene in order to reiterate the illegitimacy of the funds block, in the absence of subscription to the voluntary disclosure.

In this state of uncertainty and confusion, people risk making the wrong choices, only controlled by sensitivity and fear. Practical effects: fiduciaries are getting arrested, fiduciary societies are closing, banks are not accepting Italian customers, etc. The world has changed, the “copy and paste” of past models is highly dangerous now.