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Swiss lobby group open to self-declaration on taxes

ZURICH (Reuters) - The head of a leading Swiss business lobby group said on Sunday he was open to a requirement that banks ask clients to declare their money is taxed, but said that asking for proof is a step too far.

"I am open to the idea of a self-declaration for foreign customers," Gerold Buehrer, president of the economiesuisse lobby group told the SonntagsZeitung paper.

Buehrer said he opposed isolated action by Switzerland and any move should be coordinated by an international body, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), he told the paper.

A global crackdown by cash-strapped governments against tax dodgers has dragged Switzerland into the spotlight of international authorities.

The U.S. Justice Department is probing 11 Swiss and Swiss-style banks suspected of helping wealthy Americans evade taxes. Switzerland has been lobbying for a year to get the investigations dropped in return for the payment of a hefty fine and the transfer of names of thousands of U.S. bank clients suspected of dodging taxes.

Parliament is set to vote on a proposal that would allow the transfer of client names on February 29. But the Social Democrats have said they will only back the proposal if a cabinet report into a "clean money" strategy includes a requirement for banks to get foreign customers to prove that their money is taxed.

"Just out of reasons of practicability this is not doable. Buehrer said. "Such a constraint would be tantantamount to a severe disadvantage for the Swiss financial centre," Buehrer said.

The heads of ZKB and Credit Suisse , which are among the 11 banks being investigated by U.S. tax authorities, are also open to asking clients for a declaration, but reject a requirement asking for proof.

"Demanding that a client must prove that he has paid taxes is an impossible undertaking," Credit Suisse CEO Brady Dougan told the SonntagsBlick newspaper in an interview.

Zuercher Kantonalbank Chief Executive Martin Scholl told Der Sonntag newspaper that such a requirement would be a "Mission Impossible."

(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Erica Billingham)

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