Wealthy Residents No Longer Protected from Scrutiny

Thu, 28. Sep. 2017

The municipality of Saanen is being forced to disclose the tax data of several wealthy residents requested by Bernese SP (Social Democrat)-National Councillor Margret Kiener Nellen, the Federal Court in Lausanne has decided.

The Federal Court thus supports the decision of the Bern Administrative Court, which in the summer of 2016 decided in favour of Nellen. Anonymous parties lodged a complaint against the judgment, which has now been dismissed by the Federal Supreme Court.

The SP politician demanded the tax data in connection with the vote on the abolition of flat-rate taxation, as a member of a committee that was working for the abolition. It was intended to take a careful look at the tax registers of wealthy Saanen residents like Ernesto Bertarelli or Bernie Ecclestone, and to use the data in the election campaign. This practice had been supported by the tax authorities, but the Bern Administrative Court, argued that the tax registers were public.

“At that time it was possible to block the request for data by a third party," explains Kurt Gyger, Head of Department Finance and Real Estate, on request.

However, Margret Kiener Nellen is only able to use this data to a limited extent. Since she requested the data from 2008 to 2011 and the voting was over three years ago, the abolition of the flat-rate tax was not accepted. Kurt Gyger assumes that Nellen’s application will still be received for formal reasons, but that the data will no longer be of much use to her. On the contrary, her case was legal and is absolved from all court costs.  

In a press release last Friday, Margret Kiener Nellen stated that she is pleased with the results. Finally, she can look at the desired tax data and find out how these seven wealthy residents contributed to the state budget.

The Federal Court decision does not, however, allow the tax data of any person to be viewed today. The revised tax legislation has tightened regulations. Economic interest must be proven for three years for tax data to be disclosed to third parties. In addition, the third party must be notified and asked for permission.



After the abolition of banks' secrecy, now one tax return could be made public: what next ?

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