Top 10 Countries the U.S. Owes Money To

Despite its small physical size, Switzerland manages more financial assets than any other country. iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Creditor Name: Switzerland

Amount of U.S. Debt Owned (January 2013): $192.7 billion

Percent of U.S. Public Debt (January 2013): 1.7 percent

Switzerland is a lot like Luxembourg, a small but incredibly wealthy European nation made famous as an offshore tax haven for wealthy investors. A stunning 27 percent of the world's privately held assets are managed by Swiss banks. In comparison, U.S. banks manage 8 percent [source: Federal Dept. of Foreign Affairs, Switzerland]. The Swiss enjoy high employment, longer-than-average life expectancy and rank among the happiest nations in the world [source: OECD]. The Swiss — or at least Swiss banks — are also one of the most reliable buyers of U.S. debt, routinely among the top 10 investors in U.S. Treasury securities.

The country may not hold onto its tax haven status for much longer, though. Thanks to a 2009 agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice, the IRS and the Swiss government, Swiss banks must disclose information about their clients and their holdings. In January 2013, a Swiss bank pled guilty in a New York court to conspiring with its clients to evade U.S. taxes [source: U.S. Dept. of Justice]. To avoid criminal charges, tens of thousands of Americans with secretive Swiss bank accounts have come forward as part of a voluntary disclosure program set up by the IRS.