Opening a Swiss bank account is not that much different from opening a standard bank account because you have to fill out forms and provide documentation that proves who you are and what you do. However, due to some special circumstance regarding privacy, the level of scrutiny over providing official documentation of your identity is more strict. For example, you may need to show your official passport to provide your identity, whereas a driver's license would probably suffice in the U.S. There are also different minimum balance requirements depending on the type of account you want. These can range from a few thousand dollars to millions of dollars.
The main benefits of Swiss bank accounts include the low levels of financial risk and high levels of privacy they offer.
Minimum deposits/balances and fees
Minimum balances vary greatly by type of account (i.e., a few thousand dollars to one million dollars or more). And, banks charge differing fees based on the types of transactions and the account type you have. For example, on a basic account, international bank transfers (outgoing) might cost $3 or $4 each. They may also charge $5 to $10 when you deposit international checks to your account. Annual account maintenance costs are charged based on the number of entries in your account statement and are sometimes in the neighborhood of 0.5 Swiss Francs (i.e., $0.41) per entry.
Accessing Your Money
Credit card: Most Swiss banks will issue a credit card with your account that you can use to make purchases, as well as withdrawals at ATMs around the world. Cash advances, however, will charge a fee (usually 2.5 percent). Use of a credit card can also be traced back to your Swiss bank revealing the fact that you have the account. These credit cards are issued differently from typical credit cards, however. Rather than pulling a credit report and actually issuing true credit, Swiss banks require that you make a security deposit that is 1 to 2 times your monthly credit limit depending on the type of account you have. The security deposit itself is held in a separate account and invested.
Cash withdrawals: If you're in Switzerland you can walk into your bank and make a direct cash withdrawal, leaving no record of the access.
Travelers' checks: Buying travelers' checks is one way of using the money from your Swiss account and maintaining your secrecy. They're easy to use and widely accepted, but you will have to pay a 1 percent commission on the amount of the check.
Travelers Check from American Express
Courtesy of Valentin Wittich
Bank transfers: A simple way to use the money in your Swiss bank account is to request a bank transfer. But, again, you're essentially revealing the existence of your account, as well as your account number. To prevent revealing your account number and name, most Swiss banks will send money from your account in the bank's name without releasing your identity, but sometimes those types of transfers aren't accepted outside of Switzerland.
Checks: Swiss bank accounts do offer checking (except on numbered accounts). However, if you're after privacy, you're leaving a trail of breadcrumbs directly back to you. You lose the confidentiality most people want with a Swiss account and, therefore, checks are rarely used with these accounts.
Closing your account
You can close your Swiss bank account at any time with no restrictions or cost. You can get your money immediately and invested money as soon as it is liquidated.
Are you among the suspected tens of thousands of Americans with a secret Swiss bank account that you are still hiding from the Internal Revenue Service? If so, you are about to acquire a Matterhorn-
Switzerland made a desperate decision on Wednesday to save its battered private banking sector by allowing Swiss banks to cooperate with a broad tax evasion probe by U.S. investigators. It is likely to unleash a flood of fresh disclosures to the IRS by American taxpayers, lawyers say.
Such disclosures could trigger hefty fines that can reach a multiple of what an account holds. To stand a chance of reducing those fines, Americans with hidden Swiss accounts "should run, not walk, to jump in line with an IRS voluntary disclosure in light of this move by the Swiss government," says Josh Ungerman, a tax and estates lawyer in Dallas and a former IRS prosecutor.
Lawrence Horn, a tax and business crimes lawyer in Newark, N.J. and a former federal prosecutor, says he expects "at least 10,000" American taxpayers to come forward in the next 12 months or so.
The Swiss decision has two key points: Over the course of 12 months, banks will be allowed to turn over to American authorities general statistical data on their work with American clients. More significantly, the U.S. can seek concrete account details -