Switzerland and LiechtensteinWT/TPR/S/208 Page 133
In its GATS commitments, Switzerland does not impose any limitations on the provision of accounting, auditing, and book-keeping services as regards cross-border supply, consumption abroad or commercial presence for either market access or national treatment, except that auditing services to a joint-stock company (société anonyme) or a limited company (société en commandité par actions) must be provided by at least one person with commercial presence in Switzerland.
The Federal Law on the licensing and oversight of auditors (LSR), which entered into force in September 2007107, abolished the system of autonomous regulation by establishing the Federal Audit Oversight Authority (FAOA), which is responsible for accrediting auditors. The Law lays down accreditation conditions, consisting either of an auditing diploma obtained in Switzerland or a combination of university studies with practical experience. Pursuant to Article 4(2)(d) of the Law, equivalent foreign education and experience can be recognized. Moreover, applicants with foreign education must demonstrate the required knowledge of Swiss law. As at June 2008, 9,042 auditors and audit firms were registered with the LSR. The law also sets out provisions for the establishment of auditing companies.
Companies that audit financial institutions supervised by the Swiss Federal Banking Commission (Chapter IV(5)(ii)) must have gained SFBC authorization.108 Only two categories of legal entities must be recognized as bank auditors: auditing associations affiliated with at least 12 banks and with capital, guaranteed capital or reserves of no less than Sw F 1 million, as well as an organizationally independent internal auditing department; and fiduciary and auditing companies with paid-up capital of at least Sw F 1 million.109 Authorized auditors must be Swiss-certified, or hold an equivalent foreign diploma or demonstrate bank auditing skills.110 Recognition of foreign-controlled auditing firms is decided by the SFBC.
The Code of Obligations provides general guidelines for the preparation of financial statements.111 Swiss companies with international presence and foreign companies use either International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) or U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), while companies with predominantly Swiss presence use the Swiss GAAP ARR (Accounting and Reporting Recommendations). The Swiss GAAP ARR is also allowed for SWX Local Caps (local companies), real estate companies, and investment companies. In fiscal year 2007, 191 SWX listed companies used IFRS, 17 Swiss GAAP ARR, and 32 U.S. GAAP.
The Listing Rules of the Swiss Exchange (SWX ) require listed companies to provide audited annual financial statements and reports.112 Article 6 of the Rules establishes that auditing bodies must be subject to the Swiss or a recognized foreign oversight authority.
No legal changes have taken place in the regulation of accounting services. Accounting services are generally not regulated as such, and a professional title does not confer the right to
107 RS 221.302.
108 As at June 2008, 19 auditing firms were recognized by the SFBC.
109 Limited liability companies (GmbH) must also have at least four associates.
110 Article 35 of RS 952.02.
111 See RS 221.431 for general book-keeping rules.
112 SWX Stock Exchange (2007). Foreign companies listed on the SWX are exempt from this requirement if their shares are traded primarily on a securities exchange in their country of domicile.