In 2012, the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland ruled that banks must reimburse their clients – among them many Israelis – who were billed illegally for various fees, including “silent commissions” and investment products for client portfolios for a retroactive period of 10 years. However, not everyone has been informed, and the clock is ticking on the statute of limitations. According to estimates, 2.5% of foreign deposits in banks in Switzerland belong to Israelis.
For example, a few months ago, an Israeli resident with four bank accounts in Switzerland discovered that he was entitled to reimbursement of fees amounting to about a million dollars. He says that proceedings are not yet complete, but two out of the four banks have already determined the amount of the refund they owe him.
Account holders are not automatically refunded – they must launch a procedure to claim reimbursement of these fees and halt the progression of the statute of limitations.
This procedure requires legal and accounting skills and entails negotiations and mediation proceedings with the banks, given that banks in Switzerland present a variety of reasons why the fees should be exempt from the decisions of the Supreme Court. The banks are also waiting for clients to actively file claims instead of presenting clear guidelines on how to obtain a refund.
Be that as it may, most holders of Swiss accounts will be entitled to substantial refunds following mediation and compromise procedures. It should be noted that customers will be refunded whether or not they have reported to tax authorities in Israel, but those clients who settled in the framework of voluntary disclosure proceedings in Israel saw particularly high refunds.
Clients must demand fee refunds from their banks, and the more clients make the demand, the more collective bargaining power they will have to obtain a higher refund.
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