The U.S. Department of Justice recently entered into an agreement with yet another foreign bank, LLB Verwaltung (Switzerland) AG, for the bank's role in assisting clients evade their U.S. tax obligations. LLB-Switzerland's business with U.S. clients boomed in 2008, after it became public that UBS AG, Switzerland's largest bank, was under criminal investigation in the U.S. for a number of violations, including tax crimes. LLB-Switzerland at one point held over $176 million in U.S. client funds, which the bank's management knew were largely undeclared. As a result of the recent agreement, LLB-Switzerland will pay the U.S. a penalty of $10.6 million.
Eli Waknine of Huntington Beach, California, pleaded guilty this week to filing a false tax return that failed to report over $2 million held at an Israeli bank between 1994 and 2011. He further attempted to conceal his offshore assets by instructing the bank to forego mailing documents to the U.S. and using "back-to-back" loans to access his offshore funds.
NPB Neue Privat Bank, a Swiss private bank based in Zurich, and the U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division signed a non-prosecution agreement on July 18, 2018, by which NPB will pay a $5 million penalty for aiding U.S. taxpayers in opening accounts to conceal assets and income from the U.S. government. Between August 2008 and December 2015, NPB managed approximately $400 million annually in both declared and undeclared assets. The bank failed to disclose the identities of American clients to the Internal Revenue Service after entering into a Qualified Intermediary Agreement in 2001 whereby it was to report U.S. securities transactions to the IRS on Forms 1099 and obtain Forms W-9 from new and existing U.S. clients to help verify their tax compliance.
What do a U.S. Senator, the owner of an Albanian brokerage firm, an attorney who is a dual citizen of America and Israel, and a group of current and former U.S. citizen now living in Canada, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic all have in common? They have been denied review by the U.S. Supreme Court in their jointly failed attempt to enjoin the enforcement of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), certain intergovernmental agreements (IGAs), and the foreign bank account reporting (FBAR) penalty.
For those taxpayers who may still be on the fence about whether to voluntarily disclose offshore assets, the time to decide is now! The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced that the 2014 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) will close on September 28, 2018.
The Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has issued an advisory alert for financial institutions concerning the potential flow of money from Venezuela to the United States due to political instability surrounding widespread corruption in the South American nation.
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.