Austria shows flexibility on bank secrecy

by Reuters
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 17:42 GMT

An employee of GSA Austria (Money Service Austria) opens a safe containing bundles of 50 and 20 euro banknotes at the company's headquarters in Vienna July 22, 2013. The GSA delivers new and collects old currency for the Austrian National Bank. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

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VIENNA, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Austria signalled on Tuesday flexibility on exchanging cross-border bank account data with fellow European Union members even absent a final EU accord with Switzerland.

"As far as banking secrecy for foreigners goes, it is important for us that there are similar accords with neighbours like Switzerland and Liechtenstein," Finance Minister Michael Spindelegger said after meeting Luxembourg counterpart Pierre Gramegna.

"There is no strict conditionality regarding finished treaties. It is important, however, that there are similar rules in all other countries promptly," he added, according to his spokesman.

Spindelegger said he saw movement in negotiations but added he would await a report from the European Commission next month to see how much progress had been made.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said last week his country did not want to hold up an EU accord strengthening rules on how cross-border savings are taxed until deals with non-EU countries, such as Switzerland, have been reached. (Full Story)

Nearly all EU members already exchange information on interest payments to EU citizens abroad. Luxembourg and Austria have resisted revealing names of account holders, preferring instead to have banks apply a withholding tax.

Spindelegger, leader of the conservative People's Party, took over the finance portfolio in December, replacing Maria Fekter. She had vowed to "fight like a lion" to defend banking secrecy in Austria until other countries lay bare their own offshore financial centres.

(Reporting by Angelika Gruber and Michael Shields, editing by Louise Heavens)

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