This week it was revealed that HSBC's Swiss subsidiary had helped wealthy clients from around the world evade hundreds of millions of pounds worth of tax.

While the bank says it is "accountable for past control failures" it also claims to have "fundamentally changed".

Following the news, YouGov and the Times newspaper asked voters why they thought British people would want to hold Swiss bank accounts.

Clearly, the majority of Britons (76 per cent) think people hold accounts in the highly secretive country for underhand reasons, while just one in ten believe they do it for legitimate reasons.

We put this question to some tax experts to find out some plausible reasons why people would keep their money offshore.

Switzerland is a respected financial centre, not as sophisticated as London or New York but it does have some good quality banks.

You can arrange all your investments - for instance, a portfolio in stocks and shares - in Geneva or Zurich. In the main, because they, quite legitimately, have a better tax incentive for doing so.

This is particularly true for non-doms - if you came over here from somewhere like Saudi Arabia or the Emirates, you live here full-time but you're not a citizen.

If all your money was made overseas and never taken into the UK, then somewhere like Switzerland is a good choice.

Many others do have illegitimate reasons of course...

  • Patrick Stevens, tax policy director for the Chartered Institute of Taxation
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