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William Byrnes (Texas A&M) tax & compliance articles

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Offshore Swiss Bank Indictments Follow Voluntary Disclosure Program

Posted by William Byrnes on April 1, 2011


Why is this Topic Important to Wealth Managers? This topic discusses the potential consequences of not playing by the rules; it is important to constantly keep in mind the balance between providing the most efficient and effective services to clients and crossing the line into illegal territory. Clients may not realize the harsh penalties associated with offshore activity, and although when performed by expert planners under the proper circumstances, that some offshore transactions may be legal and beneficial, it is the job of informed wealth managers to keep clients abreast of information that is useful in making long-term financial decisions.

Four bankers at an international bank incorporated and with its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, with offices worldwide, including New York City and Miami, were indicted by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia and charged with conspiring with other Swiss bankers to defraud the United States, the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced Wednesday.

According to the indictment, the international bank’s managers and bankers engaged in illegal cross-border banking that was designed to assist U.S. customers evade their income taxes by opening and maintaining secret bank accounts at the bank and other Swiss banks. As of the fall of 2008, the international bank maintained thousands of secret accounts for customers in the United States with as much as $3 billion in total assets under management in those accounts.

The Justice Department announced the scheme dates back to 1953 and involved two generations of U.S. tax evaders including U.S. customers who inherited secret accounts at the international bank.

The indictment asserts that four foreign individuals, members of senior management, bankers and others assisted U.S. taxpayers in evading their U.S. taxes through the use of secret bank accounts in Switzerland.

According to the indictment, the defendants and their co-conspirators solicited U.S. customers to open secret accounts because Swiss bank secrecy would permit them to conceal from the IRS their ownership of accounts at the bank and other Swiss banks. It is further alleged that they provided unlicensed and unregistered banking services and investment advice to customers in the United States in person while on travel to here, including at the international bank’s representative office in New York City and by mailings, e-mail and telephone calls to and from the United States.

Read the analysis at AdvisorFYI

 

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