The US Treasury Department today announced that the United States and Liechtenstein have signed an agreement to allow for exchange of information on tax matters between the two countries. The agreement was signed by U.S. Charge d’Affairs Leigh Carter and Liechtenstein Prime Minister Otmar Hasler in Vaduz, Liechtenstein.

According to a release from the Treasury Department, the Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with Liechtenstein will provide the United States with access to information it needs to enforce U.S. tax laws, including information related to bank accounts in Liechtenstein. Effectively, the TIEA will permit the United States to seek information from Liechtenstein on all types of federal taxes, and in both civil and criminal matters. Under the TIEA, the requested information must be obtained and exchanged without regard to whether the country receiving the request needs the information for its own tax purposes or whether the conduct being investigated would constitute a crime under its law. If the country receiving the request for information does not have the requested information in its possession, it must take relevant information gathering measures to provide the requested information. Moreover, requests from one country to the other must be honored, even if the information relates to, or is held by, nonresidents.

Only specific tax authorities are allowed to receive and send information. Information exchanged pursuant to the TIEA may be used only for tax purposes, and the competent authorities must safeguard the confidentiality of information exchanged pursuant to the TIEA.

The TIEA will allow the United States to ask for information relating to 2009 and years following. Documents or other information created before 2009 can be obtained from Liechtenstein provided that the request relates to an investigation of a post-2008 year. In the case of pre-2009 years, the United States can currently obtain information regarding criminal tax matters under the U.S.-Liechtenstein Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.

Treasury says that as part of the signing of the TIEA, the United States is extending Liechtenstein’s treatment as an eligible Qualified Intermediary (QI) jurisdiction until December 31, 2009. This one-year extension is intended to provide Liechtenstein with time to enact the legislation necessary for full implementation of the TIEA. If Liechtenstein fully implements the TIEA by the end of 2009, Liechtenstein’s QI status will be renewed for the standard six-year term. The QI program generally allows financial institutions that are located in an eligible QI jurisdiction to enter into an agreement with the IRS in which the foreign financial institution assumes certain documentation and withholding responsibilities in exchange for simplified information reporting for its non-U.S. account holders.

The TIEA also anticipates further dialogue and cooperation between the tax authorities of the United States and Liechtenstein.