By Catherine Bosley
ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss and U.S. authorities have held informal exploratory talks that touched on regularizing untaxed money held by wealthy Americans in secret Alpine accounts, a spokesman for a finance ministry office said.
U.S. officials have said they are investigating other banks after UBS <UBSN.VX> <UBS.N> paid $780 million in 2009 to settle tax evasion charges.
In an article on June 9, sources told Reuters the U.S. and Switzerland were in advanced talks on a multibillion dollar deal that would let several Swiss and European banks join a common settlement to avoid potential U.S. prosecution.
The announcement of a settlement could come as early as July, the sources said.
Mario Tuor, spokesman for the State Secretariat for International Financial Matters (SIF), said on Friday the two sides had exchanged ideas but that he could not confirm the July date, whether the two sides were eyeing a multi-bank solution, or any other details mentioned in the article.
"There were several sets of talks, one of which was on the sidelines of the IMF's spring meeting and was about the FATCA, though ideas were also exchanged about finding a solution for the past," he said.
The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is a U.S. bill adopted in March 2010 that forces non-U.S. banks to automatically share a vast amount of information regarding the bank dealings of their U.S. clients.
With state coffers strained by the financial crisis, Switzerland has come into the crosshairs of tax authorities in Italy, Britain and Germany, as well as the U.S., which all suspect their citizens of stashing money in Swiss accounts to avoid taxes.
In 2009 Berne agreed to hand over to Washington bank data relating to 4,450 clients of UBS, piercing a hole in Swiss bank secrecy laws.
The U.S. Department of Justice continues to go aggressively after U.S. citizens who have hidden assets abroad, with a senior U.S. Internal Revenue Service figure saying this month the authority was about to probe at least one bank.
(Editing by David Hulmes)