OTTAWA/TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian government officials pressed representatives of Swiss bank UBS on Wednesday for details of Canadians who might be account holders, a spokeswoman for the Canada Revenue Agency said.
Spokeswoman Caitlin Workman said Ottawa -- keen to clamp down on possible tax evasion in offshore accounts following a high-profile U.S. investigation -- “clearly outlined the need to obtain this information from UBS” during the talks.
“The CRA will make every effort to gain the information required to enforce the provisions of the Income Tax Act in the most efficient way possible,” she said.
A spokesman for UBS declined to comment.
Workman said Canada Revenue was hoping to pursue further meetings with UBS.
Offshore private banking involves managing the wealth of rich clients from a foreign location. However, some clients have exploited the system to avoid paying taxes, especially if transactions are carried out in traditional banking secrecy strongholds such as Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
The situation has been in the limelight since Washington accused UBS of using Swiss bank secrecy laws to help wealthy clients avoid paying taxes and forced it last month to hand over some treasured client data.
On Monday, the Swiss finance ministry said the United States had launched a formal process to get account details of 4,450 American UBS clients suspected of tax evasion.
Other than meeting with UBS or seeking a court order, Canada could turn to diplomatic pressure to persuade Switzerland that problems with bank secrecy in the country need to be addressed.
Experts have said that UBS’s capitulation to the U.S. tax authorities and a global crackdown on tax evasion are denting the allure for banks to shelter untaxed money.
Writing by Wojtek Dabrowski; editing by Peter Galloway