The U.S. ambassador to Switzerland wants more of the country’s 266 banks to accept American clients after onerous regulations and tax-evasion probes prompted many financial firms to shun them. Top banks UBS Group AG and Credit Suisse Group AG, along with Corner Banca SA, from the Italian-speaking southern part of Switzerland, have introduced procedures for U.S. citizens. Still, it’s a challenge for many of the 20,000 American expatriates living in the country to open or keep an account, Ambassador Suzan LeVine said in a statement from the U.S. embassy in Bern. “I invited the executives to meet with me so we can identify solutions together that will benefit Swiss banks and enable American citizens to do business,” LeVine said in the statement. The embassy declined to provide a copy of a letter she sent to bank executives, but Bloomberg BNA obtained a copy of it. “Some U.S. persons who have lived in Switzerland and held accounts at a Swiss financial institution for decades have reported that they have received notices of account closure and that Swiss citizen family members have had their accounts closed because of their relationship to a U.S. person,” LeVine wrote in the letter. The U.S. is the only Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nation that taxes citizens wherever they reside. Asset-disclosure rules under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or Fatca, require banks to disclose information on U.S. account holders or impose withholding taxes. U.S. expatriates have objected to jumping through hoops for banks’ compliance departments and paying costly lawyers’ fees to meet reporting requirements. Thousands of Americans living abroad have given up their passports in favor of other nationalities in protest of the U.S. stance on citizenship-based taxation. The Swiss Bankers Association, a trade group, said it was aware of LeVine’s letter but hadn’t received a copy. A spokeswoman for the group said Swiss banks can choose their clients.
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