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.
In a recent tax controversy forum hosted by New York University, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General to the Department of Justice Tax Division (DOJ-Tax), Richard Zuckerman, said that his team is increasing its focus on individuals attempting to use bitcoin and other digital assets to evade taxes. DOJ-Tax is currently prosecuting several criminal cryptocurrency cases, and Zuckerman noted that others are already in process.
Nevada-based tax preparer and former IRS employee Thomas Bidegary was recently sentenced to five years in prison for conspiring to commit tax fraud, causing a tax loss of nearly $260,000 to the federal government. Between 2009 and 2014, Bidegary prepared false tax forms claiming fictitious business losses that he used to obtain larger refunds than were due to his clients who "invested" in his businesses.
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.
The Department of Justice recently imposed another $5.3 million penalty on Bank Lombard Odier & Co., Ltd., a Swiss bank that has already paid over $99 million for offering offshore banking services to U.S. taxpayers without disclosing their transactions. Since Bank Lombard signed its first non-prosecution agreement in 2015, it has acquired 88 additional accounts, again without disclosing them as required.
A taxpayer recently found out the hard way that if something sounds too good to be true, get a second opinion. His San Francisco-based CPA helped him prepare and file tax returns that failed to report over $18 million in income between December 2007 and September 2013, which resulted in $4.7 million of unpaid tax liabilities. In this case, both the taxpayer and his CPA were indicted; the taxpayer entered into a plea agreement and the tax preparer took his chances --- he lost.
A resident of Saratoga, California, was recently convicted of filing false tax returns and making false statements to an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agent during an audit. The taxpayer, who owns part of a home-based international trading business, failed to report profits related to sales to China during 2006 and 2007, and he made false statements concerning ownership of foreign bank accounts.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and its Security Summit partners have released a warning about a new variation on phone scams by which criminals prey on taxpayers. Scammers are now using telephone numbers that mimic IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers to try to trick victims into paying non-existent tax bills. Remember that IRS employees at these centers do not make calls to taxpayers to demand payment; such requests are typically initiated through regular mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
The Department of Justice recently reminded taxpayers that evading personal or business-related tax obligations can lead to "substantial fines and penalties, and even long prison sentences." Last month, the husband-and-wife owners of a Tennessee staffing company were sentenced to 75 months and one year, respectively, of prison time for failure to pay over $2.8 million in employment-related taxes and withholdings, and for filing false employment tax returns.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is keeping tax-related identity theft on its "Dirty Dozen" list of tax scams to watch for in 2018, despite a significant decline in this type of crime in recent years. Tax-related identity theft is the act of using a stolen taxpayer identification number to file a fraudulent tax return and claim a refund. In 2017, the IRS received 242,000 reports of identity theft, compared to 401,000 reports in 2016. This is due in part to the Security Summit partnership, launched in 2015, which has enacted various safeguards to prevent tax-related crimes. However, identity theft remains on the IRS' list of most common tax-related crimes. To read suggestions to protect yourself and your business from identity theft, click here.