Swiss lawmakers stall government-backed bill to resolve tax evasion row with US

BERLIN – Lawmakers in Switzerland have stalled the passage of a government-backed bill aimed at ending a long-running dispute with the United States over tax evasion.

The Swiss parliament’s lower house voted Wednesday to postpone further debate on the bill until it receives details of the deal the U.S. plans to offer Swiss banks alleged to have helped American tax cheats.

The decision is a setback for the Swiss government. Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf had last week presented the bill as an elegant way to allow Swiss banks to co-operate with U.S. authorities without breaking Switzerland’s strict client secrecy laws.

Widmer-Schlumpf warned the bill needed to be passed quickly as U.S. patience with Swiss banks was running out.

More than a dozen Swiss banks have been caught up in the U.S. probe.