Court protects lawyer identities in tax data transfers

Court protects lawyer identities in tax data transfers


Third party actors, such a bank employees, lawyers and accountants, should not be named when Switzerland hands over tax data to other countries, the Swiss federal administrative court has ruled.

The verdict upholds a complaint from the Swiss data commissioner’s office against a finance ministry decision to include the names of such professionals. People who are not directly linked to a request for administrative assistance should have their privacy respected, said the court on Tuesday.

The debate over naming lawyers and the like, who may have helped bank clients cheat on their taxes, has been raging for several years. The finance ministry insists that this practice is essential to keeping to the spirit, as well as the letter, of laws involving the transfer of tax data to other countries.

Officials also say it would be too time consuming and costly to comb through mountains of documents to redact names.

However, judges disagree, saying that this would infringe the human rights of individuals and their right to privacy under Swiss data protection law.

Therefore, names of people with a connection to bank clients being investigated for tax offences should be redacted or such persons should be warned in advance. This applies particularly to people whose names appear accidentally in documents, the court said.