Does Swiss Bank Secrecy Violate International Human Rights?

8 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2013

Date Written: July 22, 2013


Prof. Stephen Cohen, whose academic specialty is taxation, also has an interest in international human rights and served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights in the Carter Administration. In this comment, Prof. Cohen asks whether states like Switzerland, which provide bank secrecy for the offshore accounts of wealthy citizens of developing countries, violate internationally recognized human rights. The United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights explicitly recognizes rights to adequate food, clothing, housing, health care, clean water, sanitation, and education. Bank secrecy has a significant human rights impact if it deprives developing countries of tax revenues needed to meet basic rights guaranteed by the Covenant. The annual tax gap for developing countries caused by bank secrecy is estimated to range from over $100 billion to several times that amount. Thus, it seems indisputable that bank secrecy impedes the ability of developing countries to fulfill internationally recognized human rights.

Keywords: international human rights, bank secrecy, tax evasion, offshore accounts, human rights, taxation

JEL Classification: K00, K34, K39

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Stephen B., Does Swiss Bank Secrecy Violate International Human Rights? (July 22, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Stephen B. Cohen (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
202-662-9068 (Phone)
202-662-9444 (Fax)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics