Is this the end for Swiss banking secrecy?

The Swiss parliament approved a deal yesterday to help the IRS (the Yanks’ tax authority) get the names of American citizens with secret bank accounts with UBS, according to the Washington Post.  Effectively this is an historic weakening of traditional Swiss bank secrecy standards and may be the death knell for offshore banking secrecy.

The sweetheart arrangement will allow the Swiss government to hand over the names and account details of 4,500 U.S. clients of UBS.  Account holders will be able to appeal those decisions in Switzerland.  The IRS suspects the undeclared accounts are used to hide income and evade tax.  The Swiss have already passed on details of some 500 UBS clients.  Some of the account holders may be US passport holders but may in fact be living outside the US; including in the UK.  It seems highly likely that the taxmen in both countries will be swapping information as part of the “global war on tax evasion”.

Effectively this is an historic weakening of traditional Swiss bank secrecy standards.  Last year UBS accepted that it had helped people hide money from the IRS and paid the U.S. Treasury $780 million.