Former Swiss banker Bradley Birkenfeld has been released from prison where he had served 30 months of his 40-month sentence for his work at UBS, AG helping clients hide their offshore bank accounts. Mr. Birkenfeld exposed the Swiss bank as a facilitator for U.S. taxpayers who wished to commit tax fraud, and hide their income from the IRS in part by failing to file Form TD F 90-22.1, the Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report, commonly called the FBAR. Birkenfeld was linked to billionaire developer Igor Olenicoff who pled guilty to felony tax charges.
Mr. Birkenfeld was arrested and charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Government in 2008. Some tax attorneys believe that Birkenfeld got a raw deal at sentencing given his high level of cooperation with the IRS. Mr. Birkenfeld told the Department of Justice and Senate investigators about the illegal practices that the Swiss bank encouraged. For example, he claimed that UBS instructed him to solicit the business of affluent Americans by telling them about the tax advantages of having an offshore bank account. He began working for the bank in 2001.
UBS paid a $780 million fine in 2009. The bank agreed to release the names of more than 4,000 U.S. account holders. Since then, the Internal Revenue Service has offered limited amnesty to offshore bank account holders through its Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program. Its 2012 incarnation, the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative, gives any taxpayer who failed to file an FBAR the chance to regain tax compliance. The program has raised over $5 billion in additional taxes so far.
In 2009, Mr. Birkenfeld filed a claim under a law awarding whistleblowers up to 30 percent of revenues recovered because of their efforts. According to his lawyer, Mr. Birkenfeld has a claim for the taxes paid by UBS as part of its $780 million settlement.