Switzerland Is Not A Tax Haven

January 1, 2012 03:00 PM

In recent weeks and months, Switzerland has been portrayed as a nefarious tax haven protecting tax evaders. The US Department of Justice is currently investigating 11 Swiss banks on their suspected support of tax evaders over more than 10 years. Is Switzerland really a place of shadowy bankers involved in illegal acts?

Nothing could be further from the truth! Switzerland is one of the most competitive and innovative countries in the world. In study after study, be they originating from the World Economic Forum, the World Bank, or the EU Commission, Switzerland shows up in the top ranks, in most cases together with the USA. As Robert Portman, U.S. Senator from Ohio, appropriately remarked earlier: “Switzerland boxes way above its weight limit”. Last year, Switzerland was the largest foreign direct investor in the U.S. Not per capita or measured by some other proportionate measurement, but in absolute U.S. Dollar figures! Overall it ranks as the 6th largest investor in the U.S. Swiss companies offer some 390,000 jobs in the U.S. When measuring “job surplus” (i.e. jobs offered by Swiss companies in the U.S. minus jobs offered by U.S. companies in Switzerland), the U.S. enjoys a large job surplus with Switzerland. This job surplus of 320,000 jobs in favor of the U.S. is the absolute largest surplus the US enjoys with any country. Many of these jobs are high-value manufacturing jobs supporting the USA in their much needed re-industrialization effort. And in terms of Research and Development, the approximately US$ 15 billion Swiss companies spend on R&D in the U.S. is probably unbeaten by any other country in the world.

Luckily, this is not a one-way street, but rather a very productive win-win relationship with the U.S. being the largest foreign direct investor in Switzerland and the 2nd largest export market for Swiss goods and services. With the largest Google development center outside the U.S., the world’s cutting-edge nanotech center at the IBM Research Center and the only Disney Lab outside the U.S., to name just three of many such investments, the U.S. companies also contribute significantly to further Swiss competitiveness and innovation strength.

In summary, two of the most competitive and innovative countries enjoy a great and fruitful cooperation. The issue of tax evasion has taken an over proportionate importance and risks to derail this great win-win cooperation. The Swiss government and the Swiss banks have decided to stop all business potentially related to untaxed wealth and to make great efforts to clean up any legacy issue that remains. The good will regarding a joint solution is present on both sides of the Atlantic, but jointly we will have to make efforts to stop any politically motivated “shots from the hip”. It is important for all people engaged in the Swiss-American relationship, be it in business, science, education, foreign affairs or any other topic, to relay the important message of our great cooperation to U.S. law makers and opinion leaders, and to help moderate all untimely actions against the supposedly shady banks in Switzerland. Together, we can make a difference.