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Swiss Banks Making Concessions On Secrecy 325

Posted by kdawson
from the next-stop-panama dept.
Aryabhata writes in with news that should chill the hearts of evil dictators and tax cheats everywhere: one of the last bastions of strong banking secrecy, Switzerland, is bowing to international pressure and agreeing to cooperate with some foreign investigations of wrongdoing. "...the Swiss government announced on Friday that it would cooperate in international tax investigations, breaking with its long-standing tradition of protecting wealthy foreigners accused of hiding billions of dollars. Austria and Luxembourg also said they would help. ... The famed 'numbered accounts' that do not bear the owner's name will still be available for clients willing to pay for added anonymity. ... Over the past month, leaders have made similar promises in Singapore, Liechtenstein, Bermuda, the British islands of Jersey and Guernsey, and tiny Andorra... other 'offshore' banking centers are still available in the Caribbean, Panama, Dubai and elsewhere."
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Swiss Banks Making Concessions On Secrecy

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  • by v1 (525388) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @02:34PM (#27201425) Homepage Journal

    The famed 'numbered accounts' that do not bear the owner's name will still be available for clients willing to pay for added anonymity

    Anyone that needs one of those accounts is going to be willing to pay that added fee. So besides the Swiss making a little more money off their money hiding, what changes?

    • by SupremoMan (912191) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @02:36PM (#27201447)
      Let me check for you. *looks outside* Nope the sky is still blue, so nothing has changed.
    • by garett_spencley (193892) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @03:10PM (#27201675) Journal

      Or anyone who, out of principle, doesn't like the idea of having authorities snooping on their economic lives at their will.

      Honestly, "Aryabhata writes in with news that should chill the hearts of evil dictators and tax cheats everywhere" comes across as a little ironic to me, when considering that the mere concept of enabling authorities to snoop on the financial lives of people at it's will is right up the alley of dictatorial and authoritarian. What ever happened to freedom, the right to privacy, search warrants, due process and innocent until proven guilty ?

      • by The Dancing Panda (1321121) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @03:12PM (#27201697)
        The Swiss Banks didn't respond to search warrants. That's what they're going to cooperate with in some cases from now on.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 15, 2009 @03:57PM (#27202033)

          The Swiss Banks didn't respond to search warrants. That's what they're going to cooperate with in some cases from now on.

          The Swiss banks have always responded to search warrants issued by a Swiss court for things that are serious crimes in Switzerland (drug dealing, terrorism, money laundering, etc).

          HOWEVER, tax evasion is not a crime in Switzerland. Which is one reason Swiss banks are so popular.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by CaptainZapp (182233) *

            HOWEVER, tax evasion is not a crime in Switzerland. Which is one reason Swiss banks are so popular

            Just to clarify that statement (since a lot of folks think tax evasion is actually legal; it's not). Tax evasion is considered a misdemeanor, punishable by fine and backtaxes & interest.

        • by fugue (4373) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @04:05PM (#27202123) Homepage

          If "due process" becomes the same sort of joke internationally that it is in the USA (and elsewhere) (border laptop confiscations, random car searches and paper checks, warrantless wiretapping, surveillance face recognition, ...), then it seems reasonable that people will (1) legitimately stop paying taxes to a government that has broken its end of the contract (eg. the Constitution in the USA), and (2) look for large and powerful entities that will actually respect their contracts. If banks have their own fair and reasonable judicial system, it's no less sad that governments don't, but at least someone powerful does. At least for now...

          Yes, I've just painted a scenario in which the police go to the bank and demand a client's records, the bank says "let's see your evidence", and the bank decides whether or not there is enough evidence to warrant allowing an investigation. I realise that that is not what is going on in this case. But it's interesting to think about.

          War, security, health care, clean water, etc., are all being privatised. Why not justice?

      • by kalirion (728907)

        What ever happened to freedom, the right to privacy, search warrants, due process and innocent until proven guilty ?

        However if there is an applicable search warrant, the authorities should be able to gain access to all of that specific person's accounts.

      • by dbcad7 (771464) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @03:21PM (#27201753)

        And yet.. if you were trying to find out where 60 some odd billion dollars that some guy stole from peoples retirement accounts has gone to.. the high road just doesn't sound all that righteous..

        • by garett_spencley (193892) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @03:48PM (#27201951) Journal

          First off, I didn't realize that the banks were not honoring search warrants. My bad, I should have RTFA'd and I appreciate people informing me and not flaming me. Now I know better.

          However, what you are describing is mob-mentality and is what leads us down the road to an authoritarian and totalitarian system. I fear that Bernie Madoff is going to be used by the authority to increase it's grip over people's lives just as they do every other "catastrophe". We need to keep things in perspective. We have due process for a reason: to preserve the individual's freedom. People who screw with the system and disrupt the social order do need to be dealt with, but if we do not limit the authority's power then we all lose, rather than gain.

          This is the exact same attitude that lead to blatant violations of civil rights after 9/11. People were saying "And yet ... when people get into planes and fly them into buildings killing thousands of innocent people ... the high road just doesn't sound all that righteous".

          I would rather let a few bad guys get away, and make the ones that we catch compensate society for their loss (by paying back what they stole, not by taking away their freedom ... unless we're talking about violent offenders of course) than give big brother the ability, potential and incentive to control us.

          • The issue is that legal search warrants weren't being honored.
            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by plnix0 (807376)
              Remember, any dictator can create "legal" search warrants. Not all "legal" search warrants are moral or ethical.
            • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 15, 2009 @07:03PM (#27203927)

              What legal search warrants?

              Technically when a court of country A wants something done in country B, they ask a correct court in country B to help them.

              The US authorities did not like the idea that the Swiss banks take privacy seriously, they prefer way more the "US way of administration", where the peons have no rights.

              notice that the majority of cases in the US do not get to the trial by jury stage. Wonder why? Simple, risk management for the accused. Would you prefer 6 months in a low security place to the risks of of decades in a high security place, especially if you do not have the resources to prepare your defense?

              Generally, you have to consider the following things:

              For the accused (irrelevant if one is innocent):
              -) you can loose, and you are in deep shit.
              -) you can win, and still go bancrupt.
              -) you will most certainly loose quite a bit of money defending any case.

              For the state:
              -) you can loose. Consequences: Most certainly none. Hint: to get any censure the system you work in would have to do the censuring.
              -) you can win. You can win, and gets all benefits.

              So the whole system is stacked against anyone that gets into to sights of any official.

              Public examples that come to mind would be M. Jackson => he was cleared by the court, but it certainly did cost him.

              What personal costs (stress, money, negative consequences) did have his accuser, which in this case, btw, had no victim?

              Btw, the cards are quite stacked in the US, but they are stacked, in some ways stronger, in some ways less, elsewhere too. Basically, mistakes by the state are usually with no or only minimal consequences to the persons involved in the "error".

              E.g. how many police officers get prosecuted for crimes with video proof? Btw, notice that many states in the US made it illegal to tape police officers to avoid this embaressment, of having proof of criminal behaviour. (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_King)

          • by fugue (4373)

            Well put.

            I'd go a step further. Crime should be likely to hurt you: (what you stand to gain) * (your chance of getting away with it) should be significantly less than (what you stand to lose if you get caught) * (your probability of getting caught). If you just paid back what you gained, you'd be a fool not to commit crimes.

      • by Patch86 (1465427) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @03:30PM (#27201811)

        All the Swiss (and other governments) are planning on doing is co-operating with criminal investigations, which until now they've refused to do. You'll still need warrants, court orders and all the other trappings of due process before they'll co-operate.

        Like it or not, if you live/work in a country, you need to pay taxes there. And if you steal money in a country, you need to give it back. Anything that allows people to dodge taxes and profit from crimes is a bad thing, full stop.

        • by Corbets (169101) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @03:39PM (#27201875) Homepage

          Like it or not, if you live/work in a country, you need to pay taxes there.

          And as Americans, we get to pay taxes even if we don't live or work in the country too! Hooray!

          • by Talgrath (1061686)

            Then why are you still an American citizen? If you don't like American taxes, and you don't live or work in the United States of America...then become a citizen of where you live and work. It's called immigration and it's generally not that hard to do if you already live and work in another country.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Colin Smith (2679)

          Anything that allows people to dodge taxes and profit from crimes is a bad thing, full stop.

          Freedom.

           

        • Anything that allows people to dodge taxes and profit from crimes is a bad thing, full stop.

          An Internet connection allows me to infringe copyrights.

          By the same logic (the way I interpret your argument), having an Internet connection is a bad thing, full stop.

          I don't agree with that. Is tax evasion somehow different from copyright infringement in a way that doesn't allow for the construction of a similar counter-arguing reduction to absurdity?

          • by he-sk (103163)

            You're missing the point. You don't pay taxes on dirty money, i.e. a criminal has to somehow make his profits come out clean. So stopping money laundering schemes and investigating tax evasion is not only done as an end in itself (certainly the state needs to be funded), but also as a means to an end: stopping the crime that makes the tax evasion necessary. After all, that's why Al Capone got caught, wasn't it?

            So, yes, there's a qualitative difference between tax evasion and copyright infringement.

            • by crossmr (957846)

              except there are far greater crimes than copyright infringement perpetrated on the internet everyday. Still following the OPs logic it should be gotten rid of.

    • by olesk (211973) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @03:18PM (#27201737)

      Numbered accounts do not exist - they are a James Bond myth. What we (I'm a Swiss banker) refer to as "numbered accounts" are accounts where the name of the account holder is not references in correspondence with he bank. The idea of accessing your account with only a number is a joke, considering that the Swiss have one of the strictest identification policies for opening and managing accounts in Europe (and thus probably the world). You not only need to ID yourself, but also prove where the money come from to the bank. (Certain countries have poor documentation standards for just about anything, and getting an account if you're from one of those is very very hard. You'd get it in Germany though, where they are more lax on their documentation (as is France), which is a little ironic...).

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by DNS-and-BIND (461968)
        As as Swiss banker, I'd like to ask you how you feel about contributing to the impoverishment of Africa by providing a means for governments to untracably steal taxes and foreign aid money from their people.
      • I'm a Swiss banker

        As Swiss banker that reads Slashdot? Why not!

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @03:57PM (#27202025) Journal
      It's ok, according to Misha Glenny, [randomhouse.com] Dubai has taken the place of Switzerland as the preferred place for illicit money storage. In his book, he gives an example where a guy tried to transfer $3000 from a bank in Dubai, and they made him fill out a form. Very good record keeping. Except when he wanted to transfer $2 million euros, he did without any problem. He says, "If they ask too many questions, they won't get sales!"

      Dubai of course isn't the only place, there are others, like Lichtenstein, and (at least in the 90s if you were Jewish) Israel. These are popular places for organized crime organizations to launder money. He says, "The only credible reasons for their growth and success is the fact that many corporations in the licit economy use them for the exact same reasons [as the criminals] (especially tax evasion). The government of the United States could force them to lift their banking secrecy codes overnight if they threatened to apply the same sanctions on offshore centers that they do on the onshore banks.......Without offshore banks it would not be only the mobsters finding it onerous to shuffle their money and companies around. Enron would have found it a lot harder too........"

      Getting banks to be more open is a good thing in many ways.
    • by b4upoo (166390)

      Rich people go down slower than a teen queen in 1953. You've really got to go some to get them on their backs.

  • Hardly a suprise (Score:2, Insightful)

    by geniice (1336589)
    Hardly a suprise. Tax havens can be overlooked when times are good. Less so now. If the situation of somalia continues I can see some reform of the ship flagging system also takeing place.
  • by retech (1228598) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @02:37PM (#27201459)
    Evil Dictators got caught doing wrong... (stop).

    Last bastion of free money compromised... (stop).

    Secret stash not so secret... (stop).

    Mugsy and Lefty may be on the take... (stop).

    Slashdot editor KDawson sensationalizes yet another tired story... (stop).
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hamisht (197412)

      Evil Dictators got caught doing wrong... (stop). Last bastion of free money compromised... (stop). Secret stash not so secret... (stop). Mugsy and Lefty may be on the take... (stop). Slashdot editor KDawson sensationalizes yet another tired story... (stop).

      KDawson please just... (stop)

  • Tax Cheats? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Sunday March 15, 2009 @02:41PM (#27201485) Homepage
    Like cheating an inept and corrupt government is wrong somehow.
    • Re:Tax Cheats? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by T Murphy (1054674) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @02:45PM (#27201519) Journal

      Like cheating an inept and corrupt government is wrong somehow.

      If you consider that true, then considering how a perfect government is never going to happen, that would imply taxes should never be paid.
      So much for civilization.

      • Re:Tax Cheats? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 15, 2009 @02:56PM (#27201591)

        Remind me again what minimal government in a rational society attempted a system of voluntary taxation but failed completely.

        Oh, that's right, it hasn't happened yet, because governments invariably end up being bloated and unpopular, so must force people to pay taxes at the point of a gun. And it all works because of a vast cadre of useful idiots like yourself, the disciples of authoritarianism.

        Nothing that has been achieved could not be achieved with a smaller government to which productive citizens willingly pay for service. Indeed, I spent a lot of time pretty much entirely avoiding paying tax, but willingly give to charities (neither political nor religious!), foundations, veteran/law enforcement benevolent funds, etc. I care about those who protect me and those who are weaker than me, but I hate you because you want to make me your slave.

        Fortunately, I've probably got enough wealth behind me that I can use accountants, lawyers and friends in the right places to keep me going as I am. I'm sad that I can't help even more people, rich and poor, to go through life as I do.

      • Re:Tax Cheats? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by darjen (879890) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @03:43PM (#27201913)

        So taxation is necessary for civilization? Pretty big assumption if you ask me.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by T Murphy (1054674)
          People will pay for civilization out of good will? Pretty big assumption if you ask me. (As another post points out, paying only for what you need is like not buying insurance- I'm willing to pay a hefty premium if it gets me civilization).
          • by darjen (879890)

            No, they will pay for it because it is nice to live in civilization. Who in their right mind wouldn't? And who says the government actually provides civilization? Civilization isn't force.

        • by Repton (60818)

          Can you point to any examples of civilizations (either now or in history) where there is or has been no taxation?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sakdoctor (1087155)

      Who the hell are we (US/UK/wherever) to say that we are "losing" tax revenue because of tax havens?
      That's more stupid than when the RIAA calculate their "losses" from piracy.

      Sometimes people need an opt-out from the retardation and danger of run-away collectivism.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I guess you can do without public roads, you'll just build your own?
      If you get permanently disabled somehow and can no longer work for a living, I assume you'll have enough savings to last a lifetime?
      You can also pay for your kids school? Health care?
      I assume you'll extinguish any fires, or at least have several thousand at hand when it happens to pay off the local firefighting company?
      And you'll catch criminals on your own, or maybe you'll pay the private cops thousands to catch that criminal that stole a

      • Re:Tax Cheats? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by garett_spencley (193892) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @03:35PM (#27201837) Journal

        Brace yourself, you're in for a real shocker. The USA did not have an income tax prior to 1913 ! *gasp*

        The only role I see for government in a free society is preserving freedom. The courts and the police do need to exist in order to deal with those members who would inflict harm upon others, and to act as an arbitrator, when requested, to settle contract disputes. Everything else, you do not need a government to private... and you do not need an income tax to pay for the judiciary.

        "I guess you can do without public roads, you'll just build your own?"

        All over the US there are private roads and people voluntarily pay tolls to travel them because, brace yourself again, they provide a much more pleasant commute. They deal with traffic congestion immediately, they undertake repairs and maintenance quickly and effectively, without bloated government bureaucracy making repairs and improvements take years and cost tax payers millions of dollars and they do it with their own money.

        "You can also pay for your kids school? Health care?"

        Government involvement in those two institutions has railroaded both of them straight into the ground. In Canada, for example, there is no law preventing private schools from operating but they're virtually unheard of because everyone is forced to pay taxes to send other people's kids to public school. If government got out of the school system entirely you would have lots of schools opening and competing with each other, forcing prices down. It would be in every school's best interest to increase enrollment and student loans with reasonable, market-determined interest rates would become common for poor students. The level of charity would increase as well. As far as health care is concerned, you should listen to some of what Ron Paul has to say. He was a practicing obstetrician long before he entered politics, and long before medicaid, medicare and government got it's hands on the system. According to him charities and churches would build hospitals and even in the private for-profit hospitals no one was ever turned away because they couldn't afford to pay. It's precisely because we are taxed and regulated so much that these things get so expensive to begin with.

        "If you get permanently disabled somehow and can no longer work for a living, I assume you'll have enough savings to last a lifetime?"

        Again, if people are allowed to keep what they work for, and if government does not try to interfere with who people trade with and how and why and under what circumstances the economy prospers, people have a lot more personal wealth and charities become much more common. Insurance will also still exist. This goes straight back to medical care. No one will bother to take out insurance plans to cover the occasional doctor's visit, but insurance will still exist to cover extreme unforeseen chronic illness. Employer-provided benefits would also still exist as a way to compete with other businesses for labour and attract employees. As long as it's optional and not mandated by "pro-labour" government regulation it's a boon to society and not a hindrance.

        "Oh and can I assume that don't care one bit what happens to those who cannot pay for all this on their own (ie. at least 50% of the population)?"

        I urge you to read a bit on economics. Read up on the work of Ludwig Von Mises, F.A Hayek, Murray M. Rothbard and start to ask yourself WHY there is so much poverty. The answer is almost always institutional. During the 1800's the USA economy grew at a tremendous rate. The country was seen as the land of opportunity where you could make it with a bit of hard work. Gradually the government started to expand and intervene with programs sold to the public as a way to help overcome the problems that they perceived in the system. Problems which are all relative. If you compare today's standard of living with that of 1700 England under Serfdom, or even 1930 in Russia and Germany under socialism, you realize just how much the free market

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Totenglocke (1291680)
          Very good points. Too bad most people are so brainwashed into thinking we need the government controlling everything and will call your post "anarchist propaganda" or something along those lines. The fact remains, most of the time the government causes more harm than good.
        • Re:Tax Cheats? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SerpentMage (13390) <[ChristianHGross] [at] [yahoo.ca]> on Sunday March 15, 2009 @04:38PM (#27202443)

          Dude what have you been smoking?

          First let's tackle health care shall we...

          Health care in private does not work because it is upside down economics. It is not like getting car insurance because for the most part you can avoid getting into an accident. BUT when you get old you cannot avoid cancer or a whole host of diseases that will afflict you.

          This means when you are young you should actually pay more in insurance so that you are covered for the future. But health insurance is priced like car insurance and thus as you get sick you end up paying more. It is wrong!

          When Ron Paul and such talk they talk CRAP, yes you read that right CRAP. They talk about breaking a leg, giving birth, etc. They are not talking about chronic diseases, which are actually the core of our health care dilemna. We have people who should have kissed their lives goodbye still living. And that COSTS A WHOLE HEAPING LOAD OF MONEY!

          So if you are going to talk private I say make youngsters pay more when they are healthy than when they are old.

          Oh yeah that will not work since we tend to be people who only react when they are having problems.

          Let me give you a secret, do some research on Bismarck the state leader. He introduced concept of health care, and pensions. He did so to pacify the people. But he did so with a very high bar because he knew that health care and pensions can suck a government dry.

          The true cost of health care, pensions and society can only be borne by the populace as a whole. Do the math and you will see there is no other solution.

          Well there is a solution, those that have the money get it, those that don't die...

        • Re:Tax Cheats? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by shutdown -p now (807394) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:05PM (#27202653) Journal

          Brace yourself, you're in for a real shocker. The USA did not have an income tax prior to 1913 ! *gasp*

          Correction: the USA did not have a Federal income tax prior to 1913.

          The only role I see for government in a free society is preserving freedom. The courts and the police do need to exist in order to deal with those members who would inflict harm upon others, and to act as an arbitrator, when requested, to settle contract disputes. Everything else, you do not need a government to private... and you do not need an income tax to pay for the judiciary.

          There had been no society in the history of the world that worked as you describe. To me, it is a strong indicator that this is nothing but utopia - not any more real than communism.

          I won't even bother dealing with the rest of your arguments, save for this: there are many other countries in the world, and quite a few with standard of living higher than in US. All the latter ones also have more government intervention into economy, and higher welfare. In fact, in general, it's the countries with the higher welfare spending (and taxes, of course) that tend to have least poverty, best healthcare and education, and so on (Scandinavia, for example). This clearly shows that the model works, and any problems you might have in the U.S. with "inefficient and bloated government" are your own local problems, and not inherent in the idea of strong government in and of itself. Maybe, if you stop chasing the utopia of Libertarianism, and instead work on fixing your own government so that, when its intervention is needed, it's not "inefficient and bloated", you'd get a lot more bang for the buck.

          • Re:Tax Cheats? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by garett_spencley (193892) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @06:13PM (#27203377) Journal

            You won't get any arguments from Libertarians claiming that a true free market has ever been put into practice. The only thing every approaching it could be the USA right after independence, but even that wouldn't be entirely accurate since the 2nd president, John Adams, created the first central bank. So in that sense, maybe it is Utopian. But so what ? Are we afraid of ideas now ? I strongly refute Marx and Engels ideas but I listen to everything that they have to say first.

            Austrian economics grew out of a battle with socialism during World War II. The simple idea is that if you let people be free they will create their own prosperity. That might be Utopian but it sure sounds like something worth investigating. I don't claim to be an expert economist, but I have actually gone out and read the books published by the Austrian economists and have also read contrary views such as those published by Marx and Keynes in order to ensure that I'm not just absorbing some ideal without getting the whole picture. The Austrian economists make the most sense to me.

            According Austrian economists depressions and involuntary unemployment can be explained very convincingly by applying their principles to interventionism. Fiat currency and credit expansion cause the boom / bust cycle which create depressions, and regulations interfere with competition. It's worth reading what they have to say before you condemn them as Utopian dreamers. If I could recommend only one book to anyone it would be "Human Action" by Ludwig Von Mises. If that book does not challenge your views then nothing I will ever say or do could ever convince you to give what I have to say a second thought.

            I've never been to the Scandanavian countries. I really wish that I could comment directly. The only thing I can say on the subject is vague: how do you know that your standard of living would not be even higher without those institutions in place ? I will point out that I'm actually Canadian. I live on a border town with the US / Canada and so I have been exposed to both cultures and conditions in both countries. Most of where I'm coming from deals in principle. I am self employed but I am very much middle class (lower middle class is probably more accurate) and I having been exposed to the writings of the Libertarians I can't help but wonder if economic growth and prosperity is being held back by governments. Until you study the subject you can not claim that everything that they say is false. There was a time when all we knew was Serfdom and despotism. Yet it would have been false to claim that Liberalism in some form could not work because it's never been tried. At least socialism and communism have been tried and have proven to fail. They are no longer Utopian dreams, they are failed experiments. I argue very strongly against the notion that laissez-faire has been tried and proven a failure.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by QuoteMstr (55051)

              Austrian School economists dismiss the use of empirical data and math in their analysis, and they make no concrete predictions. That's not science: it's mysticism.

              Furthermore, laissez-faire has been tried to a great degree at various points in US history: consider the late 19th and early 21st centuries. Yes, some regulation remained, but if Laisse-Faire were really the way to go, you'd think the economy would improve as regulations weakened. The opposite happened: as regulations weakened, the economy starte

      • Roads are one place where it normally is more useful for the government to deal with it, but that is a rare case!"

        As for disability, why should the fact that something bad happened to you mean everyone else should be punished? Do you really think you are so important that if you could no longer work (and therefore not make money, assuming you're living alone with no family) that the rest of the population should pay you to sit at home and do nothing? That is a terrible waste of money and a huge burden to

        • 1. And I assume you will just accept it and go off and die if something like that happened to you?

          2. I guess we're just of different persuasions, but I tend to believe in helping people become all they can, regardless of how much their current economic status. And i believe in helping people survive regardless of economic status. I'm willing to pay for this.

          4. Again, I guess we just see things differently. I actually have that human emotion called compassion.. But I suppose you prefer it if anyone who can't

          • See, there's something I believe in that apparently you don't -- CHARITY. Charity is people giving money VOLUNTARILY. You believe in the government pointing a gun at people and taking their money by force, giving most of the money to politicians, then what little is left will be inefficiently doled out.

            In fact, I wouldn't mind if those who did nothing had as much money as I do, I could care less about money as long as I have enough to live a comfortable life.

            I'm curious what you make a year (if you live in the US). Generally only two types of people support communism as you do -- those who have little and think that the fact that they're alive means they deser

            • I'm a CS masters student (that education is entirely free btw, and I, along with most here, are proud of it), so I don't earn much right now, but probably will in the future. (and if you take a look at my nickname you can probably figure out where I am)

              I do not feel "guilty" for having a better life than many others, but I do feel everyone should have the same opportunities in life, and if that makes me a Communist, then so be it, label me what you will, I admire the ideals of Communism. Me, I label myself

              • First off, your education was NOT free. Every day you work and pay taxes for your entire life, you pay for that education system. That means that in the end, your education costs several times more than an education in the US. Just because you're never handed a bill for it doesn't make it free. That's why you pay such ridiculously high taxes.

                You cannot make it so that everyone has the same opportunities in life -- it's not possible and is a lie told to you by power hungry politicians. If person A happe

                • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

                  I think what's amusing (or sad really) is that you're so incredibly brainwashed by this American "individualism" that you cannot even imagine a society where people actually care enough about the world around them that they're willing to give up some of their money in order to help others not so fortunate as to actually have enough to survive. It's really a sad reflection on todays American society and I can only say that I'm glad I don't live in your world.

                  • You don't get it in the slightest. I voluntarily give money to help people, as does most everyone I know. However, what (most) Americans are against is the government pointing a gun at us and taking our money from us.

                    It's a sad state of how far Europe has fallen that it's citizens put up with governments that every day come closer and closer to a dictatorship. What's sadder still is that you think that it's actually a good thing for the government to have absolute control over every facet of your life.

            • Oh and I missed the part about charity. Charit is all well and good, but if you think it can replace the government as a means to care for the poor, you're dreaming.

              What happens when, like now for instance, the economy goes in the shitter and people decide that they'd rather not pay for charity?

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Totenglocke (1291680)
                Actually, times when the economy is bad (in the US at least) is when charity goes up. Why? Because people say "Well, I can still survive if I give away $500 and John and his wife both lost their jobs, so I'll give them $500 to help out". So much for your delusion of "American greed". You thinking that you should benefit from someone else's hard work, that's the real greed.
            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by arkane1234 (457605)

              Never put together working hard to making money.
              You can meet a need of a communal society in 2 seconds. The only reason I feel adamant about this is because I've actually walked through the fire of needing help that quickly. One moment you make enough to retire at 45, the next moment you have nothing, all because of someone else's mistake physically. Believing you can live in a country that would let me die makes me realize I would kill you if I could.

              I'm not joking.

      • by anagama (611277)

        Take 30 seconds to view this graph: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGgjU-h_xQw [youtube.com]

        Then tell me that our government doesn't work like a ponzi scheme. Madoff will go to jail for diverting investment funds. In DC, misspend social security funds and they give you a bigger limmo or a jet.

        As for roads etc, won't matter in twenty years whether we want them or not: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTJVYDDFXPY [youtube.com]

        Then watch the 30 minute version of IOUSA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_TjBNjc9Bo [youtube.com]

        All this because we gave

    • Seing as how most of the people and corporations who use these tax havens also expect to be able to buy politicians, and create the government corruption in the first place, I find your suggestion paradoxical.

      Expecting to use relatively small amounts of bribes to control the Government in order to be allowed to avoid paying taxes is wrong somehow.

  • by onefriedrice (1171917) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @02:44PM (#27201511)

    Aryabhata writes in with news that should chill the hearts of... tax cheats everywhere..

    Well, if cheating on taxes becomes less profitable, they may have a bright future in politics.
    I know someone who can get them high positions in the US government...

    • by value_added (719364) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @04:00PM (#27202073)

      Well, if cheating on taxes becomes less profitable ...

      You may want to enlighten yourself on how easy it is under intense scrutiny by those in charge or otherwise wielding power to be judged non-compliant. Chances are you'll discover that in the area of tax law, "cheating" is not synonymous with "filing incorrectly", "foretting to pay", or "being advised that additional taxes are payable". Granted, people in the public eye should know better, or cover their asses better, but I doubt that you or most other individuals believe it necessary to have on staff a full-time lawyer (let alone a qualified tax attorney), or pay the monthly fees of a large accounting company just so they can file their taxes.

      Quite frankly, your comments smacks of trollishness and reminds me how people misuse words in the immigration debate to make disingenous comments. The naturalization process is horrendously complex and the bureaucracy is slower than dirt (not unlike the IRS in many respects). Forgetting to pay a fee, fill out yet another of any number of thousands of possible forms (or doing so incorrectly), or engage in typically innocent or benign behaviour (getting married, stepping out the country for a visit) are mostly technical violations. They do not, in most cases, deserve a characterisation of "illegality", "illegal immigrant" or a "cheat". Unless you're Lou Dobbs, of course.

      • Unfortunately, everything you wrote is just a distraction from the issue and doesn't really contribute anything. Tim Geitner withheld $35,000 in taxes even when he was audited by the IRS and knew fully well his tax obligations. He only completely paid his obligations after the President expressed interest in nominating him for the cabinet position he now holds. The difficulty of public images to stay compliant has nothing to do with the Secretary of Treasury who is undoubtedly a tax cheat; it's just a re
  • How does a person get their money out of these numbered accounts? What recourse does a person have if the bank refuses to hand over their money? Depositors certainly aren't going to go to the police if they're hiding money from the government. Is it really wise to hide your money someplace you'll never see it again?
    • by seanadams.com (463190) * on Sunday March 15, 2009 @03:05PM (#27201649) Homepage

      How does a person get their money out of these numbered accounts? What recourse does a person have if the bank refuses to hand over their money?

      It's called trust. The Swiss banking system has earned it over the course of more than three hundred years. Honestly, where do you think your dough is safer: a numbered Swiss account, or an American account with your name on it?

      Not everyone who has accounts in a different country is doing so to cheat on taxes. If you're really loaded it would stupid not to spread the risk across multiple countries/banks, to minimize your exposure to precisely the kind of clusterfuck that's happening now.

    • by guruevi (827432)

      Most of these account have a personal account manager that represents the bank. Kinda like here in the US if you have more than 100k in your account, you get assigned a personal 'wealth' consultant (at least that's what my bank calls it) who basically manages all your assets and recommends what to do with them. Some of their services are included in the price of having your moneys at their bank and some you have to pay for.

      I think if these bankers are going to compromise their trust with their clients, the

  • Facts & fiction (Score:5, Informative)

    by olesk (211973) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @03:07PM (#27201661)

    As possibly the only Swiss banker on Slashdot I should perhaps point out that:
    - "numbered accounts" are a myth from James Bond movies. They do *not* exist. What is referred to as a "numbered account" is an account where the bank offers to send all communication without referencing the name of the client, as a way of preserving anonymity if the communication is intercepted/stolen
    - ID requirements for opening a Swiss bank account today are *more* stringent than in EU. France is notably lax, which is a little ironic (you need to document not only who you are but *how* you got the money, and if there ever is a case where a bank fails to follow these guidelines, they can lose their banking license). Citizens of certain countries will find it nearly impossible to open an account in Switzerland as the level of documentation in their home country is not acceptable for opening a Swiss bank account.
    - The Swiss distinguish between tax fraud (fabricating papers, forging signatures etc.) which is a criminal offense and where the bank will hand over information on your account, and tax evasion (failing to list all assets/income) which is *not* a criminal offense in Switzerland. The latter category they have now conceded to assist with on a case by case basis.

    It is easy to misunderstand Swiss banking secrecy as some kind of dodgy way of assisting rich foreigners with tax fraud/evasion. In fact there is no difference between the rights of a wealthy foreigner and someone like me who (though not a Swiss national) has a job and get a regular salary in Switzerland. We all have the same rights.

    To understand where all this comes from, one has to understand the very strong federal system of Switzerland. The Swiss "cantons" are almost as independent as separate states, with a weak and small central government. It boils down to this: the rights of the individual is valued much higher than the rights of the state. This is why the Swiss police cannot (nor the "IRS" or any other government entity) get my account information in Switzerland. This tilt of rights in favor of the individual versus the state also leads to a lot of other differences from most other countries, like that assisted suicide is legal in some cantons, including my canton of Zurich, liberal drug policies etc. In certain cantons you can actually negotiate your tax with the local cantons (who all have different tax rates) directly.

    • by seifried (12921)
      "and if there ever is a case where a bank fails to follow these guidelines, they can lose their banking license)." Has this actually ever happened? I suspect this is a red herring similar to the "lawyers/engineers/doctors/psychologists/psychiatrists/etc. can lose their license" which virtually never happens.
      • I'm not sure about lawyers, engineers or doctors but I'm pretty sure that psychologists and psychiatrists lose their licenses all the time. Do a google search with the terms: psychiatrists, lost, and license to see what you come up with (then substitute in psychologists). It happens. One of my psychology professors warned us that no matter how unattractive we might think we are, just based on the nature of our relationship with our clients it is guaranteed that one will find you attractive and attempt to fl
  • My Mattress (Score:3, Funny)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @04:39PM (#27202453) Homepage Journal

    Is looking more and more like a viable solution for future banking needs.

    • Quick story. My grandparents were just starting out during the Great Depression so it left them with a big distrust in banks. They both worked hard through their lives and ended up purchasing and running a couple motels later in life, then selling them and handling the mortgages themselves -- which means, the people who bought the mortgages were sending their monthly payments directly to my grandparents, for 30 years.
      In cash. Because my grandmother was probably a tax cheat. But that's an aside.
      Here's th

  • by reusr1 (1408433) on Monday March 16, 2009 @01:06AM (#27206873)
    Like it or not, there is a tax treaty between Switzerland and America ( www.irs.gov/pub/irs-trty/swiss.pdf ). It clearly defines in what cases the USA or Switzerland can get information from each other regarding taxes and it deals with double taxation. The agreement is between the two countries, so if the USA doesn't like it, why did it agree to it in the first place and why are we not discussing renegotiation of the agreement?
  • by ThatbookwritingWheel (553383) on Monday March 16, 2009 @04:20AM (#27207647) Homepage
    ....can you find all those countries mentioned on the world map in less than a minute? "here there be dragons" does not count as an answer. Go!

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

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