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U.S. Going After Banks in Singapore and Israel

Posted in Offshore Account Update on February 26, 2016 | Share

Money is rapidly moving out of Swiss banks as U.S. account holders look for other places to keep offshore funds. The exodus is occurring as 41 Swiss banks signed amnesty agreements with the United States Justice Department just in this past year alone. As part of these agreements, the banks were given immunity from criminal prosecution in exchange for paying fines and providing detailed information on individual accounts and account holders. 

The U.S. authorities are using the information from Swiss banks to pursue efforts to collect unpaid taxes and penalties from U.S.-affiliated individuals who were keeping money offshore and not reporting income.

Since Swiss banks are no longer safe places to park assets, U.S. account holders who want to maintain banking privacy have moved funds to other locations. The IRS and DOJ, however, are aware that there are other places to keep cash offshore and Bloomberg reports that the DOJ is now following leads and are likely to target banks in Singapore and Israel. 

The DOJ is determined to track down funds and anyone who has any funds offshore should consult with a Washington DC tax attorney to find out what options they have available to them to limit the potential loss from DOJ and IRS action.

FOCUS IS EXPANDED TO OFFSHORE BANKS IN SINGAPORE AND ISRAEL

In 2009, the biggest bank in Switzerland - UBS Group AG - paid $780 million as part of a non-prosecution agreement. The U.S. subsequently started an investigation into 14 other banks.  With the success of early efforts to crack down on offshore banks, the U.S. decided to expand its efforts to find undeclared accounts by going after financial institutions. In 2013, authorities said they would forego prosecution if banks came forward and voluntarily disclosed.

Financial institutions jumped on the chance to participate in the voluntary disclosure program, called the Swiss Bank Program. In 2015 alone, 41 Swiss banks signed agreements with the DOJ. In exchange for authorities not prosecuting, the banks would not only pay fines but also had to give up specific, detailed info on account holders and account transactions involving people affiliated with the U.S. Approximately another 40 banks are expected to become part of the Swiss Bank Program next year.

Since Swiss banks are all voluntarily reporting their own involvement in tax evasion and giving up account holders in the process, investors are moving money and authorities are following it and using their resources to look at other jurisdictions. 

Bloomberg indicates that “Israeli banks have drawn special focus from the Justice Department,” with Bank Leumi Le-Israel Ltd. resolving a criminal case last year by paying $400 million.  Singapore is another target, as taxpayers were interviewed by the DOJ and reported using Singapore money management firms to help them hide funds.

With the DOJ announcing expanded efforts in other jurisdictions like Singapore and Israel, there are even fewer places where money kept offshore is safe and where account holders can expect their privacy to be respected. If you are concerned the IRS could come after you for undeclared offshore accounts, call Kevin Thorn, a DC tax attorney, as soon as you can for assistance with exploring your options.


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