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Swiss voters approve tax overhaul stripping special status for foreign businesses

May 19 (UPI) -- Voters in Switzerland approved a measure overhauling the country's corporate tax system and boosting pensions on Sunday.

The measure passed with 64 percent of votes, with all 26 regions in the country voting in favor of the government-supported plan that eliminates preferential rates offering to multinational corporations while also lowering baseline rates to prevent businesses from moving to other countries.

Under the new tax system, approximately 24,000 foreign companies based in Switzerland will lose the "special status" that allowed them to pay less tax than Swiss companies, but will still be able to claim deductions on income from patents or research and development spending.

It also adds about $2 billion into the state pension system as a means to dissuade concerns that the lower rates would increase strain on public services and citizen taxpayers.

Two years ago, voters rejected a similar measure, suggesting it provided too much for corporation at taxpayers expense.

Some critics of the new measure questioned the connection between corporate tax and pensions, while still expressing concern about cost to taxpayers.

Celine Vara, vice president of the Swiss Green Party, said the loss in tax revenue would come at the expense of "public services, creches or public transport."

Although it is not a part of the bloc, Switzerland reached an agreement with the European Union in 2014 to eliminate the special provisions that taxed foreign and domestic revenue differently.

Switzerland faced pressure from the EU and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, as well as threats that Swiss-based companies would face retaliation from tax authorities in other countries where they conduct business.

Business groups, including the Swiss Insurance Association, praised the legislation for protecting the country from such retaliation.

"Switzerland must ensure that its tax system continues to enhance its attractiveness as an economic center," the group said.

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