France turns up heat on Austria over tax havens

France turned up the heat on Austria Thursday, with French Budget Minister Bernard Cazeneuve saying that it could be placed on a French list of non-cooperative countries if lawmakers do not agree to an automatic exchange of information aimed at combating tax evasion.

France turns up heat on Austria over tax havens
French President François Hollande shakes hands with Austrian Chencellor Werner Faymann in October 2012. Photo: Jacques Demarthon/AFP

Cazeneuve told the state-owned radio France Info: "It is not normal that countries like Austria for example do not communicate information they have regarding European Union citizens who have accounts there.

"If these countries do not cooperate, if there is not a convention covering an information exchange that allows for total transparency within the European Union, these countries run the risk of being on the list of non-cooperative states and territories," Cazeneuve said.

Austria is the last EU member to resist lifting bank secrecy policies, after Luxembourg said Wednesday that it would implement rules allowing for the exchange of account information starting in 2015.

Cazeneuve was named French budget minister on March 19 to replace Jerome Cahuzac, who resigned as it emerged that he had maintained a non-declared bank
account in Switzerland.

On Wednesday, President Francois Hollande unveiled a series of proposals aimed at reinforcing transparency in the banking sector and said that France would establish a list each year of tax havens.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann huffed that his country has no need for "unsolicited advice from the outside" in comments to appear in Friday's edition of the daily Kurier.

"We will find a solution concerning the exchange of data," he reassured the daily. "We must put fighting tax evasion at the top" of our priorities.

A French list of non-cooperative countries and territories (NCST) has in fact existed since 2010, and its latest update in April 2012 contained eight names, down from 18 in the original version.

At present, Botswana, Brunei, Guatemala, the Marshall Islands, Montserrat, Nauru, Niue and the Philippines are considered by Paris to be uncooperative in the fight against tax fraud.

Leading European countries have called meanwhile for a continental version of the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which obliges foreign countries to reveal information on the investments and revenues of US citizens abroad.

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Cashless payments in Switzerland: What is Twint and how does it work?

If you live in Switzerland, you are likely no stranger to Twint and maybe even use it regularly to make and receive payments. But if you are not familiar with this app, this is what you should know.

Twint app can be installed on a mobile phone.
“Twinting” money with a smartphone is easy and convenient. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

In Switzerland, the word “Twint” is used both as a noun and a verb.

As a noun, it describes the mobile application which allows you to pay for various goods and services practically everywhere in the country.

As a verb, (“to twint”), it means to send someone money, or receive it, via the same app.

So what exactly is Twint?

Simply put, it is digital cash (not to be confused with bitcoin, which is digital currency) that was first introduced in Switzerland in 2014 and has become very popular since then.

Twint logo. Image by

People like it because it is an easy and quick way to make instantaneous payments, especially in situations when credit cards or physical cash can’t be used.

A big part of its convenience is that it can be used at cash registers, vending machines and parking meters, as well as in online shops — pretty much everywhere in Switzerland, even in places that don’t accept credit cards.

The only similar mode of payment would be your maestro debit card issued by your bank.

This video explains exactly how the process works.

Another advantage of Twint is that you can use it to send money to someone else’s mobile phone — as long as they also have Twint. And you can receive money the same way.

And there are no fees or charges for this service.

How does Twint work?

Anyone can use Twint, but you need a Swiss bank account or a credit card and, of course, a smartphone.

According to Twint website, you need a smartphone with either an iOS (from version 12.2 and upwards) or Android (from version 7 and upwards) operating system and Bluetooth capability (from version 4.0 and upwards).

“It is generally not possible for Twint to be used on Apple devices with an operating system older than “iOS 12.2” or on Android devices with an operating system older than “Android 7”. On Android devices without access to the Google Play Store (e.g. on certain HUAWEI models), the use of Twint app is also not possible”.

But If you have a compatible phone, installing Twint is easy.

Swiss banks offer their own version of the app, and you can download it directly from your bank’s website.

Then, when you use Twint to make a payment, the amount is debited directly from your bank account or credit card.

By the same token, if you receive payment from another Twint user, the money is automatically deposited in your account.

And you are not limited to just one Twint app.

If you have accounts is several banks, or have more than one credit card, you can install and use all of them.

READ MORE: How to open a bank account in Switzerland

Can Twint be used to make payments and receive money from abroad?

For the moment, Twint can be used solely in Switzerland and payments can be made only in Swiss francs – although this may change in future. 

“We are, however, working closely with providers in other countries to develop an international and multi-currency solution”, according to Twint website.

You can find more information about Twint here.

READ MORE: Which bank is best for Americans in Switzerland?