The Department of Justice started pressuring Swiss Banks including UBS and Credit Suisse to reveal bank account information on their account holders who are U.S. citizens or U.S. residents. Information from the Swiss Banks and other European Banks has now been flowing to IRS and is being used by IRS to uncover taxpayers who have not disclosed foreign income and foreign accounts. The IRS is now aggressively supplementing and corroborating prior leads, as well as developing new leads, involving numerous banks, advisors and promoters from around the world, with a new emphasis in Asia, India, Israel and the Middle East pressuring banks like HSBC and others to reveal U.S. accountholder information.
The IRS has established a Special Unit to disseminate bank information received from foreign banks and compare it to the forms and information reported by U.S. taxpayers on their tax returns. In addition, this Unit is able to review previously filed FBAR’s to determine whether all income was reported on each income tax return. Starting in 2011, taxpayers who have foreign assets are also required to disclose those assets with the filing of their Federal Individual Income Tax Return. This reporting will serve as an additional tool for this Unit.
Following the mandate of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), U.S. tax authorities and foreign governments are on track to conclude dozens of agreements known as Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) in coming months on the sharing of financial data about citizens. FATCA, made law in 2010 as part of a crackdown on tax dodging by wealthy Americans, requires foreign financial institutions to disclose to the IRS more about Americans’ Offshore accounts. Banks and other institutions are affected by the law, which Treasury is implementing through a series of bilateral IGA’s. Completed pacts are in place with Britain, Denmark, Ireland, Mexico and Switzerland. More than 50 other countries are working with Treasury to sign IGA’s by the end of 2013.
The penalties for non-disclosure are stiffer than the civil tax penalties ordinarily imposed for delinquent taxes. The penalties for noncompliance which the government may impose include a fine of not more than $500,000 and imprisonment of not more than five years, for failure to file a report, supply information, and for filing a false or fraudulent report.
Taxpayers who hire an experienced tax attorney in Offshore Account Voluntary Disclosures should result in avoiding any pitfalls of non-disclosure or incomplete disclosure.