- - Wednesday, April 11, 2012

SWITZERLAND

GENEVA — Talks to resolve a long-running spat between Switzerland and the United States over how to pursue suspected tax evaders suffered a blow Wednesday, when a Swiss court blocked the handover of one unnamed bank client’s data to U.S. authorities.

The Federal Administrative Court said a 1996 treaty between Switzerland and the United States doesn’t allow the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to request the account details of potential tax cheats without clear evidence of fraudulent intent.

Drawing on Switzerland’s distinction between evasion and fraud, the court said evidence of tax evasion, such as failure to declare a Swiss bank account, didn’t provide sufficient grounds for the IRS to receive the data. It also criticized the fact that the IRS didn’t specifically name the suspected tax cheat in their information request.

The IRS had asked its Swiss counterpart in September to provide details on certain types of American clients who it said had received help from Credit Suisse in hiding income and assets in secret accounts.

“Administrative assistance shall not be granted for presumed tax evasion, even if high amounts are at stake,” the court said. “The mere failure to declare a bank account may be qualified - at the utmost - as a tax evasion, which is not subject to administrative assistance.”

The ruling, which cannot be appealed, puts a strain on negotiations between Bern and Washington aimed at facilitating the exchange of information on suspected tax cheats.

COMMUNICATIONS

Verizon Wireless to charge for subscriber upgrades

Verizon Wireless, the country’s largest cellphone company, says it will start charging $30 every time a subscriber wants to upgrade to a new phone.

Other phone companies have introduced similar fees. Competitor AT&T Inc. raised its fee from $18 to $36 this year.

Verizon says it will start charging the fee April 22, and the money will help fund customer support and online educational tools.

Verizon is introducing the fee as cellphone companies are seeing their profits cut by the cost of subsidizing smartphones, especially iPhones. Smartphones generally cost hundreds of dollars more than they sell for in stores. Wireless carriers count on making the money back through service fees over time, but those fees aren’t growing as fast as smartphone sales.

GERMANY

BMW, VW hit sales records for 1st quarter

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