Swiss banks near tax deal


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The largest banks operating in Switzerland are hopeful of tying up a wide-ranging deal to end US charges that they helped thousands of Americans to evade taxes in their home country, but the deal could cost them billions of dollars in settlement costs.

A group of up to 11 banks that offer offshore accounts through Switzerland, including Credit Suisse and London-listed HSBC, are expected to hand over the names of thousands of US clients.

The Swiss Government has been shepherding the talks, through which they hope to preserve some vestiges of the country's banking secrecy rules. It hopes to outline a final accord for the foreign affairs committee of its Parliament's upper house on November 10.

"We are aiming for an all-encompassing solution that will apply to all the banks," said the Finance Minister, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf. "We don't want to be confronted with the same issues time and again."

US tax authorities have been applying increasing pressure on Swiss banks since agreeing a US$780 million settlement in 2009 with UBS, which was accused of helping US citizens to hide their assets overseas.

As part of that settlement, it handed over details of 4700 client accounts.

UBS is not among the 11 banks still under investigation in the US.