Pakistan, Switzerland ink revised pact on double taxation avoidance

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and Switzerland on Tuesday signed the revised Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation with respect to taxes on income, reports The Nation.

According to a statement issued by Ministry of Finance, the agreement was signed by Switzerland Ambassador Marc George and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Dr Muhammad Irshad.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar, PM’s Special Assistant on Revenue Haroon Akhtar Khan, officials from the Embassy of Switzerland, Ministry of Finance and FBR were also present on the occasion.

The revised Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement between Pakistan and Switzerland would open new vistas for cooperation, especially in the areas of exchange of information for tax purposes.  It contains improvements with regard to the taxation of service fees and capital gains resulting from the sale of qualifying participants.

These rules promote economic exchange in bilateral relations.

The agreement also contains an arbitration clause, which should guarantee the avoidance of double taxation. One of the highlights of the re-negotiated treaty is the replacement of the Article on “Exchange of Information” with the new one reflecting the internationally accepted standard which is based on the OECD Model.

The new Article on Exchange of Information would considerably expand the existing scope of information to be obtained on request basis for the enforcement of domestic tax laws. It would also provide access to bank information for tax purposes and such information shall not be refused solely because the information is held by a bank or other financial institution.

For this purpose, the requesting State would be providing information to the requested State such as the identity of the person under investigation and period of time for which the information is requested.

The existing Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement between Pakistan and Switzerland was signed in 2005, and enforced in 2008. However, subsequent to the Federal Cabinet approval in August 2013, Pakistan had approached Switzerland for incorporating the updated version of the Article on Exchange of Information based on the OECD Model.

In August, 2014, Pakistan delegation visited Switzerland for re-negotiation of Pak-Swiss Treaty and initialed the draft agreement between the two countries. However, in order to safeguard national interests and to bring certain provisions of the initiated agreement in line with Pakistan’s tax policy, Switzerland was requested for a second round of negotiations which was finally agreed in May, 2016 and held in Berne, Switzerland in June, 2016.

The negotiations were held in a very cordial and friendly atmosphere and all the issues were amicably resolved.

It may be recalled the Swiss government had invited the Finance Minister to sign the agreement with the Head of the Federal Department of Finance (FDF) of Switzerland and had proposed the signing to be held on March 21, 2017 in Berne.

However, owing to unforeseen commitments of the Head of FDF, the Swiss government informed the government of Pakistan it can no longer proceed with the signing in Berne on March 21, 2017.

In the interest of avoiding any delay in the signing of the agreement, the government of Pakistan proposed that the signing may be held in Islamabad on March 21, 2017.

The Swiss government acceded to this proposal and authorised the Ambassador in Islamabad to sign the agreement, while Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued the instrument of full powers for the FBR Chairman to sign the agreement.

The Swiss government has also proposed a meeting between the Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and the Head of FDF of Switzerland on the side-lines of the upcoming Spring meetings of the World Bank Group and the IMF on April 21-23, 2017.

The government of Pakistan has agreed to the proposed meeting. After signing, both the States would undertake internal procedures for ratification of the agreement.

After exchange of instruments of ratifications, the agreement would come into force in Pakistan on first July of the next calendar year following that of the entry into force.

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