On Wednesday, the UBS offshore tax evasion case moved one step closer to UBS disclosing the names of persons the IRS believes have committed tax fraud and/or failed to file TD F-90-22.1, Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR). The IRS announced that it had “initialed a settlement” with the Swiss government to settle the suit seeking the names of 52,000 U.S. persons with offshore UBS bank accounts. The terms of the settlement has not yet been disclosed, but most tax attorneys believe that it will require UBS to provide the names of thousands of Swiss bank account holders. The IRS has said that the terms will not be disclosed until final signatures have been obtained on the settlement, and that could occur as early as next week.
Some tax lawyers speculate that it will be only the names of the largest UBS account holders that will be disclosed, but I tend to disagree. Any settlement would have to provide the Swiss with a fig leaf to argue that they had not compromised their privacy laws. One way of doing this would be to loosen the interpretation of tax fraud under Swiss law, and provide the names of individuals who engaged in some activity suggesting they were covering up the existence of the offshore account. For example, holders of numbered accounts, or accounts held in the name of dummy corporations or trusts, or perhaps dual citizens of the U.S. and other countries who did not use their U.S. passports to open the accounts.
Once the settlement terms have been announced it is unknown how quickly names of UBS Swiss bank account holders will be turned over. However, once the IRS has the names it will be too late for those individuals to participate in the IRS tax amnesty, and receive the benefits of the offshore voluntary disclosure program.