Cooperation between PwC and Noveras Tax Reporting for international Banking Clients

PwC and Noveras Services AG have agreed to cooperate in providing offshore tax reports for banks located in Switzerland and in foreign countries. This cooperation results in the following benefits:

Benefits for Banks:

  • Able to offer truly country-specific, high-quality tax reports to clients
  • No need to build up and maintain tax reporting infrastructure
  • No need to follow tax laws around the world
  • Tax reporting provided even for small numbers of clients
  • Flexible, cost-efficient cooperation

Benefits for Clients:

  • Client receives a high-quality tax report for their offshore account
  • Reports deliver all of the necessary information for client’s tax return in their country
  • Overall lower costs for the client due to saving the expense of local tax support

Statement by the Leaders

  • This unique cooperation ensures several high-quality services (such as highly skilled tax reporting products).
  • The synergy between PwC as leading expert advisor in tax-related topics and a practice-oriented boutique with profound knowledge of wealth management / cross-border banking, IT and international tax law creates a unique market solution.

Find out more

Contact

Dieter Wirth
Partner
+41 58 792 4488
dieter.wirth@ch.pwc.com

Michael Taschner
Senior Manager
+41 58 792 1087
michael.taschner@ch.pwc.com

Swiss Federal Council Adopts Dispatch on AEOI with 41 Jurisdictions

On 16 June 2017, the Swiss Federal Council agreed to adopt the dispatch on the introduction of the Automatic Exchange of Information (“AEOI”) with 41 states and territories. Switzerland will activate the AEOI with each individual state/territory via specific federal decrees within the framework of this dispatch.

This dispatch strengthens Switzerland’s international position, as its AEOI network has extended to most of the G20 and OECD states, in addition to the already existing agreements with 38 states and territories, including all EU member states.

As part of this dispatch, collection of information will begin in 2018 for a first data exchange in 2019. Brazil, China, Liechtenstein, and Russia are notable states included within the list of 41 states and territories.

Please refer to the following link for the Swiss Federal Council’s official media release:

Englishhttps://www.admin.ch/gov/en/start/documentation/media-releases.msg-id-67079.html
Germanhttps://www.admin.ch/gov/de/start/dokumentation/medienmitteilungen.msg-id-67079.html

Synopsis of the most important regulatory developments in the banking and asset management industry

Status as of June 2017

The most important regulatory developments with comments to important aspects/changes and status:

  • Interdisciplinary issues
  • Banks/securities dealers
  • Fund management companies/investment funds/representatives of foreign collective investment schemes

Download

Contact

Bruno Gmür
Technical Partner Financial Services Banking
PwC Schweiz
+41 58 792 7317
bruno.gmuer@ch.pwc.com

FFIs should renew their FATCA agreements by 31 July 2017

IRS reminds FFIs to renew their FATCA agreements on the FFI Registration System

On 7 June 2017, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) reminded foreign financial institutions (“FFIs”) that the FATCA FFI Registration system has been updated to include the ability for FFIs to renew their agreement with the IRS.

FFIs that are required to renew their FFI Agreements should resubmit their registration applications by 31 July 2017, in order to be treated as having the FFI Agreements in effect as of 1 January 2017.

In addition, FIs around the world have been receiving messages from the IRS FATCA Registration System reminding them to update their agreements, if required. To make this process simpler, a “Renew FFI Agreement” now appears on the account home page after logging in.

For more information regarding which FFI’s are required to register, please see Table 17 on page 85 in Publication 5118.

IRS releases revised FATCA Online Registration User Guide

In June 2017, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) released a revised Publication 5118 Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act Online Registration User Guide. Under the “What’s New” section, the IRS has provided the following information:

  • The FATCA Online Registration System now allows FIs to renew their foreign financial institution (FFI) agreement with the IRS. Certain financial institutions (FIs) must complete the renewal by July 31, 2017. All registered entities should use the system to determine whether they need to renew their agreement. (Table 17: Self Determination for Renewal of FFI Agreement can assist FIs with their determination.)
  • The FATCA Online Registration System adds account home page information regarding Renewal of FFI Agreement information including updates to account information such as the renewal due date and submitted date.
  • The IRS has discontinued the limited status for new or renewing FI applicants. Existing branches will no longer be marked as being in limited status.
  • Additional updates include:
    • A warning banner added to the login steps.
    • The number of attempts allowed to login to the registration system is reduced from five to three attempts.

Latest Level 3 ESMA Q & As related to MiFID II/MiFIR

ESMA published and updated in the last couple of days additional Level 3 Q&A papers. Due to the specification and clarification purposes of the Level 3 papers, this should help you during the implementation phase and could clarify open questions. Please find the relevant June and May 2017 Q&As below.

PwC provides you with this Newsletter an overview of the latest questions related to the following topics:

  1. Investor Protection
  • Information on costs and charges
  • Post-sale reporting
  • Appropriateness / complex financial instruments
  1. Transparency
  • None-Equity transparency
  • Pre-trade transparency waivers
  • The systematic internaliser regime
  • Data reporting services providers
  • Third country issues
  1. Market Structure
  • Direct Electronic Access (DEA) and algorithmic trading
  1. Commodity Derivatives
  • Position Limits
  • Ancillary Activity
  • Third country issues

Read the whole article.

We are happy to discuss with you any thoughts and issues or are happy to review your solutions with regard to MiFID II and MiFIR. Please do not hesitate to contact us.

Günther Dobrauz
Partner
Leader Legal FS Regulatory &
Compliance Services
+41 58 792 14 97
guenther.dobrauz@ch.pwc.com

Michael Taschner
Senior Manager
PwC Legal FS Regulatory and
Compliance Services
+41 58 792 23 25
michael.taschner@ch.pwc.com

Orkan Sahin
Senior
PwC Legal FS Regulatory and Compliance Services
+41 58 792 1994
orkan.sahin@ch.pwc.com

Swiss pension outcomes are falling – could “matching” be part of the answer?

Low, even negative, interest rates and uncertain growth prospects is becoming a “new normal” in Switzerland. The impact on pension fund finances is well documented – pressure on funding levels, tough to find the right investment opportunities and focus on cost transparency. This environment also poses challenges for insured members, and as a result their employers. Expected retirement outcomes have fallen. What does this mean for employees and employers? 

10 years ago an insured person would expect higher returns on any money they invest for retirement than they would today. The mandatory interest credit for Swiss pension plans according to BVG/LPP was 2.50% in 2007 compared to 1.00% today.  Ten-year Swiss government bonds yields have fallen from 2.6% to -0.1% in the same period. This not only affects expected returns on the assets set aside but also the cost of providing an income for life after retirement. Life expectancies for retiring pensioners have increased by about 1 year for females and 2 years for males in that time which also needs to be funded.

All of these factors have had a major impact on retirement outcomes. Based on our calculations, in 2007 a 40 year-old could invest CHF 7’100 and expect a pension of a CHF 1’000 a year for that investment. Today a 40 year-old would expect to have to invest CHF 14’700 – more than doubling of the cost of retirement over 10 years. In that time, inflation expectations have also fallen, but overall the cost of retirement has increased.

What can pension funds do?

Pension funds aim according to our experience to maintain the level of retirement benefits they provide while financing the promises already made. But pension funds are in a “zero-sum” game – without extra funding, members will ultimately receive lower benefits on average when results are not what was expected. Robust analysis and forecasting of what employees can expect to receive, combined with clear communication may be the best what they can do. Other measures are down to employees and employers as recipients and sponsors of retirement benefits.

What does this mean for individuals and employers?

Find higher returns? In conventional collective Swiss plans, employees share in the overall returns of the fund as they are credited to them. This limits opportunities to take more risks, with an expectation of higher returns. For higher earnings, it is possible to have individual strategies through a “1e” pension plan. These plans can be used to seek higher returns, but this may not be suitable for all.

Later retirements? Without saving more, employees have to retire later for the same outcome.  In some ways this is only reasonable: If life expectancies increase without changing retirement ages, the proportion of life we spend in retirement rises. Employers may have to prepare for the ageing effect on their business – not only their workforce recruitment and retention, but possibly their business strategy and target markets.

Employers pay more? One answer may be employers paying more. But employers face economic challenges themselves, with increasing competition and pressure for results. For most companies, raising costs or investing cash may not be palatable.

Employees pay more? Creating more awareness of the individual options available for the employees is one option. Additional voluntary employee contributions are typically deductible for tax purposes. Some employees don’t have confidence in their pension plan and are not keen to lock away money until retirement.

How can companies create further incentives for employees to pay more? A look abroad could help.

Could “matching” be part of the solution?

In the US as well as the UK, contribution “matching” is widely used in pension plan design. Employer contributions are adjusted to “match” those of employees. When an employee contributes a percentage of their salary into the plan, the employer contributes an amount directly linked to what the employee pays. This could be 1:1 – i.e. if the employee pays 2% of pay, employer pays the same. Or some ratio like 2:1 or 1:2.

The big advantages of matching are two-fold: it encourages employees to pay more; and it focuses employer spending where it is most valued by its employees. One of our clients challenged the common Swiss plan option of employers paying the same for all employees, whereas employees can choose their level: “Why can employees choose to pay less, but I cannot follow when they do?” A reasonable question that matching helps to address.

The challenge is that legislation in Switzerland currently restricts the ability to apply matching within the regular plan. The law requires the employer contribution rate to a pension plan to be the same for all employees in the same situation (e.g. age, grade etc). “Matching” can be done through the buy-in system. So with the right plan design, matching can be incorporated within the Swiss plan.

This won’t for every situation as the use of buy-ins is subject to certain caps and restrictions which may become a barrier. Plan administration may be more complex. But in challenging times for pension outcomes, new solutions may be needed.

Contact

Richard Köppel
Pensionskassen-Experte SKPE, Poeple and Organisation
Tel. +41 58 792 11 72
richard.koeppel@ch.pwc.com
Adrian Jones
Director, People and Organisation
Tel. +41 58 792 40 13
adrian.jones@ch.pwc.com

Swiss Withholding Tax Refund on Equity Finance Transactions: New Decision of the Federal Supreme Court

On 5 April 2017, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court issued a new decision concerning the Swiss withholding tax refund right of an Italian bank that was engaged in a combination of buy-sell and derivatives transactions with shares of Swiss issuers around dividend payment dates. To a large extent, the decision of the Court concentrated on the evaluation of taxpayers’ compliance with the concept of beneficial ownership requirements aimed at assessing whether relevant transactions entered into by the taxpayer constituted the mere setup of a dividend stripping. Subsequently, the Court denied Swiss withholding tax refund claims due to the failure of the taxpayer to provide the Federal Tax Authorities (“FTA”) with the required information for the identification of the counterparties to the relevant trades, considering this a failure of the taxpayer to cooperate since such information is, in the view of the Court (and of the FTA), an essential element of proof within beneficial ownership testing.

Previous jurisprudence

The judgment represents the further evolution of previous cases delivered by the Federal Supreme Court in similar situations, and in particular, with regard to two Swiss withholding tax refund lead cases dealing with Danish Banks (for further details, please see the following blog posts).

Decision of the Federal Supreme Court of 5 April 2017

Relevant facts:

A bank incorporated in Italy entered into a number of buy/sell and derivatives transactions (futures) with Swiss shares. The bank acquired these securities shortly before the dividend payment date and sold them shortly after the dividend receipt. Further to the dividend payments, the Italian bank filed several withholding tax refund requests with the FTA regarding dividends distributions arising from securities held on ex-dividend dates. While the claims were under consideration, the FTA requested the bank provide additional information regarding the transactions, and in particular, to disclose information enabling the identification of the counterparties to the transactions with underlying securities prior and post the dividend payment event.

Because the Italian bank was unable to provide this information, the FTA and the Federal Administrative Court rejected its Swiss withholding tax refund claims.

Federal Supreme Court decision highlights:

In its decision, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court reiterated its jurisprudence regarding the concept of beneficial ownership, and provided the following arguments:

  • The Federal Supreme Court re-established that Swiss withholding tax refund claim eligibility in the context of the application of a double taxation treaty requires that the claimant be the beneficial owner of the underlying income.
  • To qualify as a beneficial owner of income (a dividend in the case in question), the recipient should be free in determining further faith of income received (this means that the taxpayer should not have any contractual or legal obligation to pass on such income to third parties). The notion of beneficial ownership should be considered while taking into account economic circumstances and not just pure tax reasons (such as the attempt of the recipient of the dividend to benefit from a double tax treaty withholding tax reduction). Consequently, the Court mentioned that although the tax savings is effectively not present, this is not relevant for the double tax treaty eligibility analysis, which precluded the line of reasoning that all counterparties involved in the transaction were residing in treaty countries with the same residual Swiss withholding tax rate under the relevant treaty with Switzerland.
  • Moreover, the Federal Supreme Court recalled that Swiss Tax Law imposes information-sharing and cooperation duty on taxpayers. This duty should apply both to resident and non-resident taxpayers, even if the double tax treaty does not have a specific provision in this respect. The Court stated that during the procedure, the FTA may request information and documentation enabling it to appropriately review and assess a Swiss WHT refund claim. The rules are that the requested evidence must not be obviously inappropriate to make the required assessment (i.e., it must be reasonable and offer suitable proof) and should not result in disproportionate costs for the claimant. The absence of cooperation cannot create a comparative benefit for the taxpayer, and will have negative consequences if the case cannot be properly reviewed and assessed by the authorities.
  • The Federal Supreme Court also stated that brokers used in equity finance transactions will not be recognized as counterparties but only as intermediaries, and that it is the claimant’s duty to provide proof of the effective counterparty behind the broker.

After analysing the facts of the case, the Court found that:

  • The taxpayer could not establish its compliance with Swiss beneficial ownership requirements for double tax treaty benefits application purposes just by providing the names of the counterparties effectively involved in the transactions.
  • The FTA may request information and documentation to make a proper assessment of the facts and circumstances of the transaction which resulted in a Swiss WHT claim. The claimant must provide reasonable documentation as part of his information and cooperation duties. These duties are limited by the principle of proportionality, which means that the requested information should neither be obviously inappropriate to make the required assessment nor result in disproportionate costs for the claimant. Of course, these principles are open for legal interpretation and subject to scrutiny.
  • Moreover, the Court ruled that, by not providing the requested information, the Italian bank deliberately hid essential elements of the facts required for the analysis of its transactions by the authorities, meaning non-cooperation was in fact established. Without the documentation by the claimant, the FTA was put in a position where it was impossible to understand the effective flows and structure, or to analyse the claim against the practice established by the Court. Hence, the claimant was forced to face the consequences of the missing proof of its tax mitigating elements.

Further to the above, the Federal Supreme Court concluded that the withholding tax refund should be denied to the Italian bank (only a non-material claim was sent back to the tax authorities for reassessment due to violation of the formal requirements of the procedure).

What does it mean for you?

The new Court decision clearly shows, in line with previous jurisprudence, an overall trend for assessing compliance with beneficial ownership requirements, and for the detailed review of relevant documentation when withholding tax refund claims are filed within the scope of financial services industry transactions. Market participants using brokers in similar transactions will be required to disclose the effective parties behind the broker, which will in practice make it difficult to establish proof.

The recent jurisprudence makes it clear that all cases should be analysed on the basis of individual facts and circumstances, and that outcomes may vary depending on the analysis of transactions.

We encourage you to review present and previous withholding tax claims filed for similar transactions to determine whether any risks are present, and to develop and implement risk mitigating strategies for the future.

Martin Büeler
Partner, Tax & Legal
martin.bueeler@ch.pwc.com
+41 58 792 43 92
Luca Poggioli
Director, Corporate Tax
luca.poggioli@ch.pwc.com
+41 58 792 44 51
Victor Meyer
Partner, Tax & Legal
victor.meyer@ch.pwc.com
+41 58 792 43 40
Dieter Wirth
Partner, Tax & Legal
dieter.wirth@ch.pwc.com
+41 58 792 44 88
Dmitri Deniskin
Director, Tax & Legal
dmitry.deniskin@ch.pwc.com
+41 58 792 8258

The art of operational liquidity management – Mastering the regulatory wave

Despite the fact that global monetary policy is injecting liquidity into the market and that liquidity should be ubiquitous, the management of liquidity is on top of the agenda for universal banks. Banks around the world are deeply concerned by and interested in operational liquidity management.

This is due to, firstly, the changed perception of operational and market risks triggered by the financial crisis in 2008. During the crisis, some seemingly liquid financial resources quickly became illiquid and impacted banks.

Secondly, while it is important for banks to hold a certain level of capital during the ‘good’ phases of economic cycles, regulators have realised that it is even more important and useful to know how a bank’s financial resources, balance sheet and P&L behave during economic slowdowns or even in financial depressions. This resulted in the current regulatory wave, in which banks need to comply with the global and local liquidity regulations introduced in the wake of the crisis (e.g. Basel III, CRD IV, Swiss Liquidity Ordinance ERV).

Thirdly, an accumulation of fines in relation to tax transparency matters and the US subprime crisis or other penalties has led to significant cash outflows for some institutions and augmented the need to improve the liquidity function.

In this paper we analyse and discuss:

    • The current liquidity regulatory trends in the market
    • The actual challenges and those that are coming in the near future
    • The existing gaps at operational level
    • Our view and takeaways to face these challenges
    • PwC Switzerland’s service offerings

Read Attachment

For further information, please contact:

Patrick Akiki
Partner
PwC Switzerland
Tel. +41 58 792 2519
akiki.patrick@ch.pwc.com

Marc Lehmann
Director
PwC Switzerland
Tel. +41 58 792 2650
marc.lehmann@ch.pwc.com

The Future of Wealth Management

PwC’s 4th FS-Talk

Wealth managers are challenged by shifting client segments and disruptive technologies PwC experts discuss the key success factors for wealth managers today. Private client re-segmentation makes value-added services more important. Demands on relationship managers are increasing. Operations are under pressure to deliver higher efficiency. Listen in for pointers of where the challenges are and which technologies provide opportunities to gain a competitive edge.

Watch the latest video of our FS-Talk:

Get in contact with the speakers:

Dieter Wirth
Partner / Financial Service Leader
+41 58 792 4488
dieter.wirth@ch.pwc.com

Marcel Tschanz
Partner Advisory
+41 58 792 2087
marcel.tschanz@ch.pwc.com

Marcel Widrig
Partner / Private Wealth Leader
+41 58 792 4450
marcel.widrig@ch.pwc.com

SWIFT Customer Security Programme – mandatory specifications to protect your local SWIFT infrastructures

The growing number of cyber-attacks, including those on the local infrastructures of SWIFT participants, has prompted SWIFT to create a security programme for its participants in order to fight together against cyber threats.

SWIFT published its Customer Security Programme in April 2017. It defines specific requirements to be met by all connected participants. The programme aims to improve the exchange of information within the SWIFT community, to ensure a high level of security for the local SWIFT infrastructure of participants, and to put in place an assurance framework to counter the ever growing number of cyber threats and strengthen the ability of SWIFT participants to combat cyber-attacks.

SWIFT Customer Security Programme

The programme calls upon all SWIFT participants to implement a control and assurance framework. The control framework consists of a set of 16 mandatory and 11 advisory security controls. The controls are based on existing SWIFT security guidelines, and are in line with good practice standards such as NIST, ISO/IEC 27002 and PCI-DSS. The mandatory controls establish a security baseline for the entire SWIFT community. SWIFT also recommends implementing the advisory controls to provide optimal protection for local SWIFT infrastructures.

Demands placed on SWIFT participants

The SWIFT Customer Security Programme will come into force on 1 January 2018. As well as applying to financial service providers, it is also valid for all companies that participate in the SWIFT network. Before the introduction of the programme, each SWIFT participant must conduct a self-assessment and notify SWIFT of its status regarding compliance with the controls (by the end of 2017). From 2018, all participants must confirm their compliance with controls on an annual basis. This confirmation can be provided via a self-assessment (self-attestation), internal audit (self-inspection) or external audit (third-party inspection). Participants are free to choose the type of confirmation they wish to submit. SWIFT will however also carry out regular spot checks of confirmations via internal or external audits for quality assurance purposes.

SWIFT participants must consider the following points in particular:

  • Should only the mandatory controls be implemented, or also the advisory ones?
  • How should the assurance framework be structured? Is self-assessment sufficient, or should an internal or external audit be conducted on a regular basis?
  • Should the status regarding compliance with controls be made public to other SWIFT participants?
  • How can it be ensured that controls continue to be adhered to in the future?

The support we offer you

SWIFT Readiness Assessment

We can help make sure you comply with the SWIFT requirements by 1 January 2018 by assessing your current status and highlighting any gaps.

SWIFT control support

We can provide support for the implementation of controls by means of a post-implementation review.

SWIFT compliance confirmation

We can assist you with your annual confirmation of compliance with SWIFT requirements.

Please feel free to contact our experts if you are interested in the topic.

More information

Contacts

Jens Probst
Director, Systems & Process
Assurance
+41 58 792 29 59
jens.probst@ch.pwc.com

Claudia Hösli
Senior Manager, Specialist Cyber Security
+41 58 792 14 85
claudia.hoesli@ch.pwc.com

Marco Schurtenberger
Senior Manager, Specialist Cyber Security
+41 58 792 22 33
marco.schurtenberger@ch.pwc.com