Switzerland has always justified its banking secrecy laws with the argument that the government trusts its citizens, and that the Swiss are honest taxpayers. But in the past few years, a rapid increase in the number of voluntary disclosures has shown that the Swiss are no different from their German, French and Italian neighbors when it comes to evading taxes.
Since 2010, Switzerland, like Germany, has given its citizens the option of filing a voluntary tax disclosure and paying back taxes with fines, thereby exempting themselves from criminal prosecution.
In the country’s most populous district, Canton Zürich, the number of voluntary disclosures increased from 1,300 in 2013 to 1,500 last year. In Canton Geneva, the number of such disclosures doubled, reaching 900 in 2014. On a per capita basis, the two cantons, with a combined population of 2 million, saw more voluntary disclosures than Germany, where a record 40,000 tax evaders turned themselves in last year.