English in Banking blog
"We do not provide tax advice. You should consult your own tax advisor before engaging in any transaction." We expect that all readers are familiar with the above disclaimer banks make when making financial recommendations. In this article, we seek to understand why banks are reluctant to provide tax advice and, more importantly, why they should not be.
What Swiss FIs must know about the abolition of the “white list” approach in the Swiss CRS legislation
On 22 October 2018, the Swiss Federal Tax Administration (SFTA) published an FAQ announcing that Switzerland intends to amend the participating jurisdiction definition in the CRS Ordinance by abolishing the “white list” approach. Once approved by the Federal Council, the changes will become effective on 1 January 2019 and impose additional due diligence obligations on Swiss financial institutions (FIs).
This blog discusses the legislative change announced in the FAQ, sets out the scope of affected jurisdictions and highlights the key tasks and considerations for Swiss FIs in complying with the amendment.
In 2017, total financial wealth world-wide amounted to US $ 175.1 tn (54 per cent of total gross wealth). Of this total financial wealth, only 5 per cent or US $ 8.6 tn were booked in one of the leading centres of international wealth management, i.e., Bahrain, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Panama & the Caribbean, Singapore, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, the United States or one of the other smaller centres as offshore assets. In 2010, the same figures were US $ 134.8 tn and US $ 9.3 tn, respectively. Accordingly, the share of “offshore” wealth of all financial wealth has declined by almost 30 per cent.
A number of drivers have led to this decline. While the assets booked offshore have been positively affected by booming financial markets, a growing global wealth base and an increase in global wealth inequality, a trend to repatriation of assets (particularly in the Western World), a re-focus of wealth managers to reduce regulatory complexity and a move to non-bankable assets have negatively impacted offshore assets. In addition, local specificities have further influenced the growth or decline of assets in the wealth management centres.
IRS representatives participated in several panels at the 33th Annual Forum Tax Withholding & Information Reporting Conference (11-12 October 2018) and the SIFMA Global Tax Reporting Symposium (16-17 October 2018), where they shared insights and responded to questions relevant for US and non-US financial institutions.
This blog summarizes the key messages communicated by IRS representatives during these significant industry conferences, that have historically preceded the issuance of new guidance and outlines the potential impact to non-US financial institutions.
Interbank offered rates (IBORs) have served for decades as the reference rate at which banks borrow in the interbank market. During the last financial crisis however, significant fraud and conspiracy connected to the rate submissions led to the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) scandal. This triggered concerns on the sustainability of certain IBORs in the unsecured bank funding market. In 2013, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) started reviewing major interest rate benchmarks due to concerns on their reliability and robustness. In 2014, the FSB opined that risk-free reference rates (RFRs) could be more suitable than reference rates containing a term credit risk component.
The EU Benchmarks Regulation (“BMR”) went live on 1 January 2018, forming part of the EU’s response to concerns over the reliability and integrity of financial benchmarks. BMR provides a harmonised framework to ensure clients investing in these regulated products are protected from the risk of benchmark manipulation. The majority of focus to date has been on the administrators of benchmarks largely because of the steps required to evidence compliance. The UK is leading the way in registration and authorisation as shown by ESMAs published register.
With FIDLEG expected to come into force on 1 January 2020, financial services providers in Switzerland will need to comply with a new set of investor protection requirements.
Late provision of clarity by regulators about many MiFID II requirements led to cumbersome manual workarounds in many cases. Financial institutions focused on ensuring compliance by the regulatory deadline at the expense of process efficiencies and better customer experience. The challenges created by those workarounds had to be addressed throughout 2018 in numerous Day 2 projects. Taking this experience into account, and looking ahead to the timeline for FIDLEG, preparation for a compliant and timely FIDLEG implementation needs to start now, addressing key design decisions, based on the recent MiFID II implementation and the strategic objectives of the organisation. This will determine the scope of the project, set the timeline to achieve compliance by January 2020, and considerably limit the necessity for post go-live enhancements.
This fourth blog post in our FIDLEG series considers an illustrative roadmap for effective FIDLEG implementation. It outlines why financial institutions should start addressing FIDLEG now to ensure a smooth journey to compliance.
When starting and operating a fintech, local regulations are a critical aspect to consider. It is often believed that regulation is a limiting factor for fintechs and hindering innovation. Does this hold true for the recently introduced EU fintech action plan? Do fintechs face similar regulations and challenges in Switzerland? We believe that the current regulatory efforts in the financial service space are stimulating innovation rather than hindering the development of disruptive offerings. That is one of the reasons, why financial institutions in Switzerland not only need to pay close attention to the local regulatory landscape, but also to the EU-wide efforts in this area.
FIDLEG (engl. FinSA) sets out cross-sector rules for offering financial services and distributing financial instruments. The rules are aligned with the EU directives (MiFID II, Prospectus Directive, PRIIPs). However, FIDLEG includes important adjustments made to reflect the specific Swiss circumstances. Institutions that did not implement MiFID II will have to battle with new requirements facing their clients based in and served our of Switzerland. For all the others, there are good opportunities to leverage work already done or take advantage of some of the differences. However, it all takes time.
On 5 July 2018, the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (“TIGTA”) released a final report which found that, despite spending nearly $380 million, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) has taken limited or no action on a majority of planned activities to enforce compliance with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”). While the report does address findings and recommendations regarding U.S. taxpayer compliance, it includes a number of findings and recommendations relevant for foreign financial institutions (“FFI”), of which FFIs need to be mindful when considering potential future IRS enforcement focus areas.