The past few months have been filled with contention from the Swiss government and UBS in response to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) “John Doe Summons,” which seeks to have UBS turn over the names of their US account holders. So far, UBS has been unwilling to provide the names of all but 250 or so Swiss bank accounts holders. UBS officials argue that disclosing names is a violation of Swiss law.
Several days ago Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a legal brief arguing that its summons to obtain offshore bank account information is enforceable under both US and Swiss law. DOJ points out that Swiss secrecy laws provide disclosure exceptions for certain circumstances – such as when providing information to an “authority,” and if approved by a UBS “regulator.” The fact that the law explicitly states there are exceptions, and that a person who violates this law can be exonerated in certain circumstances, leads the DOJ to conclude that Swiss law permits UBS to release the names of US taxpayers with offshore accounts.
Without commenting on the merits, it would seem that those with Swiss bank accounts have two basic choices:
1 – They can wait until the case is resolved, hoping that the IRS loses and UBS Swiss bank accounts remain secret. This option carries the risk of prosecution for criminal tax fraud and onerous civil tax penalties for failure to file foreign bank account reports (FBARs) in the event that the IRS prevails; or
2 – They can come forward now while the IRS still has its tax amnesty program, and protect themselves from criminal tax charges. Before coming forth under the tax amnesty program anyone with an offshore bank account, whether held at UBS or elsewhere, should consult with a knowledgeable tax attorney to determine if a voluntary disclosure is right for them.
If you have a UBS or other offshore bank account and have questions about avoiding tax evasion charges, or would like more information about the IRS Amnesty program, or have any other tax problems, contact the tax litigation attorneys at Brager Tax Law Group, A P.C.