Switzerland: Administrative Assistance In Tax Matters – Group Requests


Recently, the Netherlands issued an administrative assistance request in the form of a so-called "group request" to the Swiss Federal Tax Administration (SFTA). In their group request, they asked the SFTA to provide them with data of (former) UBS clients who were domiciled in the Netherlands whose account balance had been over EUR 1'500 in the period between February 2013 and December 2014. The request was based on a letter by UBS allegedly sent to its Dutch domiciled clients that had come into the possession of the Dutch tax authorities. In that letter the bank allegedly informed these clients to provide to it evidence about their tax compliance or close their accounts.

The Dutch tax authorities took the position that every UBS client who had received such a letter might not be fully tax compliant in the eyes of the bank. Therefore, the Dutch tax authorities submitted a request for administrative assistance to the SFTA encompassing a potentially wide group of individuals. Based on the formulation of the group request, all bank customers to whom such a letter had been sent and who had not provided sufficient evidence of tax compliance to the bank were considered to be part of the targeted group.

The SFTA has in the meantime granted the Dutch group request. This is the first time since the US case with the UBS in 2009, which had a specific legal basis enacted by the Swiss parliament, that a group request has been submitted to SFTA and accepted. However, appeals against the decision of the SFTA are pending.

During the pendency of the appeal proceedings, the data of persons having filed such an appeal are not transmitted.


The procedure in Switzerland with regard to such broad administrative assistance requests is usually as follows: The bank informs its concerned client(s) about the request and firstly asks them to either designate a representative or a current address in Switzerland. Following a request by the chosen representative of the affected client, access to the file is granted with the possibility of filing a statement. Within a deadline set by the SFTA, arguments can be submitted to the SFTA why administrative assistance should not be granted or limited to certain documents.

Thereafter, the SFTA issues its final order. If the request by the foreign tax authority is granted, the documents identified in the final order are transferred to the requesting authority, if no appeal is lodged by the client. An appeal is possible and must be filed within 30 days of the final order to the Swiss Federal Administrative Court. This appeal has suspensive effect, meaning that the data is not submitted to the foreign tax authority until the rendering of the decision by the court. The decision of the Swiss Federal Administrative Court can only be appealed in very limited cases where there is a legal issue of fundamental importance at stake or if it is a particularly significant case for other reasons.

Legal Issues

The current group request is based on the Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) between the Netherlands and Switzerland. This DTA was concluded before the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) introduced the concept of group requests in its most recent edition of the respective commentary.

The Dutch request is also the first group request since Switzerland passed national rules regarding such requests. Therefore, the Swiss courts will have to decide whether there is a sufficient legal basis for granting this group request and whether the specific requirements are fulfilled. Furthermore, a clear distinction between group requests and so-called fishing expeditions is not available. According to the OECD, a fishing expedition is a speculative request that has no apparent nexus to an open inquiry or investigation. It is understood that the national courts will assess whether the Dutch group request represents such a fishing expedition.

Practical Advice

The OECD's Common Reporting Standard (CRS) is currently being implemented in many jurisdictions around the world, inter alia also in the Netherlands (as an early adopter) and in Switzerland. After the implementation of the CRS, the information which is currently sought by the Dutch authorities by means of the group request will spontaneously be provided on an annual basis to the participating tax administration.

The current group request therefore only focuses on the past. In case the Swiss courts allow the Dutch group request, it appears likely that the Dutch authorities might submit similar requests with regard to other banks or other countries might also consider to make similar group requests concerning persons domiciled in their country with regard to Swiss bank accounts. Time is becoming of the essence. It is up to the clients to take advantage of the remaining period of time and to arrange the necessary to become compliant (i.e. to make use of possible voluntary disclosure programs). Prager Dreifuss is happy to provide any information or assistance in relation to these options, including administrative assistance requests or judicial mutual legal assistance requests.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions