In a unique case, the IRS charged a Swiss Private Bank instead of individuals: The Wall Street Journal reports that the IRS has just seized $16 million from private Swiss Banker Wegelin & Co. out of a bank account they held at UBS AG in Stamford, CT.
This is hardly a surprise to those familiar with the IRS' new powerful collection tools. Thanks to FATCA, banks around the world MUST disclose any clients suspected of being a US person. So, the IRS is sitting on a treasure trove of information; scary, powerful information on those who have allegedly hidden money in offshore accounts.
This case is unique because:
The indictment of Swiss private bank Wegelin & Co., founded in 1741, marks the first time U.S. authorities have charged a bank rather than individuals with helping Americans evade taxes.
Of course, these are only allegations (yet the IRS still has the power to seize assets without a court order- far before any legal adjudication on the matter, or even a pre-judgment remedy). Even if criminal charges against the company are dropped, criminal charges against individuals are certainly still possible, and these will require substantial payments to the US Treasury before they can be forgotten.
There may still be time for those with undisclosed assets to come clean. However, the bad new comes if there was an intent to defraud the United States Treasury, as 27.5% FBAR penalty (calculated by multiplying .275 times the highest account value in the last 8 years) will apply, along with unpaid taxes, interest and a few additional penalties. But the good news is if you are accepted into a disclosure program, you will not need to worry about headlines like this involving your name.
The other option often discussed is that of "soft," or "quiet," disclosures. This simply means filing old returns with unreported income, paying it and hoping no one is notices. The IRS has made it known to us offshore tax attorneys that this technique will only anger them more. If caught, the IRS will certainly make headlines out of someone who tries to sneak under the radar by quietly amended returns and paying back taxes (and the CPA or attorney who advised them).
So essentially, the only real option is to utilize a Voluntarry Disclosure Program.
If you have undisclosed accounts and aren't sure what to do, contact us. We can help. Call us at 888-727-8796 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Any information you share with us will be kept confidential.