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Cyprus mulls law amendments for access to banking information

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Parliamentarians on Monday discussed amendments to the law which would mandate authorities here to request access to individuals’ banking information where taxes or duties levied on behalf of the European Union are concerned.

Submitted by the finance ministry, the bills concern Cyprus’ obligations as an EU member state. They aim to fully harmonise with the relevant EU directive after Brussels notified Nicosia of flaws in current Cypriot domestic law.

The directive in question is Council Directive 2010/24 concerning ‘mutual assistance for the recovery of claims relating to taxes, duties and other measures.’

In parliament, officials told MPs that the flaw in domestic legislation has to do with the fact that, as it stands, it does not make it explicit that Cypriot authorities have an obligation to request the lifting of banking secrecy when it comes to recovering taxes and duties.

A representative of the interior ministry said they agree with the proposed changes, as did representatives of the banking association and the Central Bank.

A Tax Department official explained how the issue came about. The Cypriot law, passed earlier to harmonise with the EU directive, had a flaw in terms of its interpretation – the wording of the text implies that Cypriot authorities may refuse to engage in mutual assistance by lifting banking secrecy in such cases.

A representative of the Personal Data Protection Commissioner said they likewise agree with the proposed amendments as they stem from obligations to the EU.

However, the rep flagged the fact that the text in the amendments does not spell out which ‘authorities’ may ask banks to lift banking secrecy. But the finance ministry explained that the authorities making such requests would be formally disclosed on a case-by-case basis. That seemed to satisfy the Commissioner’s office.

Council Directive 2010/24 applies to claims relating to “all taxes and duties of any kind levied by or on behalf of a Member State or its territorial or administrative subdivisions, including the local authorities, or on behalf of the [European] Union”.

It does not apply to “compulsory social security contributions payable to the Member State or a subdivision of the Member State, or to “social security institutions established under public law” or to “dues of a contractual nature, such as consideration for public utilities”.

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