Susanne D. Rüegg Meier, a citizen and resident of Switzerland, pleaded guilty on July 19, 2017, to conspiring with U.S. taxpayers and other Swiss bankers to defraud the United States as the head of a team of bankers for Credit Suisse AG between 2002 and 2011. She was responsible for the accounts of over 1,000 clients and handled approximately $400 million in assets. Her conduct led to an estimated U.S. tax loss of between $3.5 and $9.5 million. Sentencing in this case is scheduled for early September 2017; Rüegg Meier faces a maximum of five years in prison, a period of supervised release, and restitution penalties.
On June 1, 2017, U.S. Ambassador Margaret Ann Uyehara and Montenegrin Finance Minister Darko Radunovic signed an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) to combat offshore tax evasion by implementing the provisions of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). Banks from Montenegro will be able to share information about financial accounts of U.S. citizens with the IRS.
The IRS remains committed to stopping the use of offshore accounts to hide money or assets, and has kept the act on its 2017 "Dirty Dozen" list of tax scams. "Offshore compliance remains a top IRS priority," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "The IRS receives more foreign account information each year, making it harder to hide income offshore."
Seven years, 100,000 taxpayers and over $10 billion in taxes, interest, and penalties paid, and the IRS' offshore voluntary compliance efforts are still going strong.
Former intelligence agent Werner Mauss is the latest celebrity under scrutiny for allegedly evading taxes from profits on offshore accounts. Mr. Mauss says the accounts were opened by intelligence agencies to fund covert operations worldwide, including averting a mafia poisoning attempt against a Pope, and operations involving hostage releases. Mr. Mauss is a mystery. He has several aliases and is a self-proclaimed master spy. He is believed to have worked extensively under cover for Germany's BND intelligence service as well as for other governments. Mr. Mauss' lawyers identify the client confidences Mr. Mauss must maintain and other problems with standard litigation given the secret nature of Mr. Mauss' work and identity. For more information, click here.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may begin ramping up its investigation of offshore account compliance soon, based on recommendations from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). TIGTA recently released its final report on the IRS' offshore voluntary disclosure programs (OVDPs) after analyzing a stratified random sample of 100 taxpayers from a population of 3,182 requests to participate in the OVDP that were ultimately denied or withdrawn. Twenty-nine of these should likely have been subject to FBAR penalties, but the IRS did not pursue compliance actions. TIGTA projected a potential $21.6 million in delinquent FBAR penalties that the IRS could have assessed and collected.
Be careful who you share your offshore account information with---whistleblowing just got more lucrative. On August 3, 2016, the US Tax Court issued an opinion in a whistleblower claim case finding that the whistleblowers were entitled to an award based upon a percentage of $74,131,694 in tax restitution, a criminal fine, and civil forfeitures paid to the government. 147 T.C. No. 4. The targeted taxpayer pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the IRS and was ordered to pay $20,000,001 in tax restitution, a $22,050,000 criminal fine, and $15,821,000 civil forfeiture.
The US Department of Justice recently determined that the Singapore affiliate of UBS (UBS AG) "has complied with an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) summons for bank records" related to a taxpayer whose liabilities are at issue. The international financial institution refused to produce the records when first served the summons. After a petition was filed to enforce the summons formally, UBS and the IRS resolved the matter amicably and the petition was voluntarily dismissed.
The US Department of the Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) announced on May 11, 2016, that it is issuing final rules under the Bank Secrecy Act to "clarify and strengthen customer due diligence (CDD) requirements for: Banks; brokers or dealers in securities; mutual funds; and futures commission merchants and introducing brokers in commodities." The final rules, which have been four years in the making, will be effective July 11, 2016. Covered financial institutions must come into compliance by May 11, 2018.
If you have offshore assets that are not yet properly disclosed, you should consider contacting an attorney immediately for assistance, before a civil or criminal investigation begins. On April 3, 2016, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), with the help of German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, revealed approximately 11.5 million documents on 214,000 shell companies that operated between the 1970s and 2016, causing extreme embarrassment and panic for many of the world's leading figures. Although shell companies are not illegal to own, using them to avoid paying your taxes is.