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Posts Tagged ‘offshore’

How much TCJA Repatriated Dividends? USA Outward and Inward Direct Investment by Country and Industry, 2018

Posted by William Byrnes on July 24, 2019


These statistics cover outward and inward direct investment positions, financial transactions, and income in 2018 and will provide information answering the following questions:
  • How much did U.S. multinationals repatriate following the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act?
  • Which countries and industries repatriated the most in 2018?
  • Which countries are the largest destinations for U.S. multinational enterprises’ direct investment?
  • Which countries’ multinational enterprises have the largest direct investment positions in the United States?
  • In which industries is foreign direct investment concentrated?
Statistics on foreign direct investment in the United States include data by the country of the immediate foreign parent as well as data by the country of the ultimate beneficial owner. Statistics on U.S. direct investment abroad will include data by the country and industry of the foreign affiliate as well as data by the industry of the U.S. parent.

Effects of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) on U.S. Direct Investment Abroad

The TCJA generally eliminated taxes on dividends, or repatriated earnings, to U.S. multinationals from their foreign affiliates. Dividends of $776.5 billion in 2018 exceeded earnings for the year, which led to negative reinvestment of earnings, decreasing the investment position for the first time since 1982. Contrast $155.1 billion repatriated dividends in 2017.

By country, nearly half of the dividends in 2018 were repatriated from affiliates in Bermuda ($231.0 billion) and the Netherlands ($138.8 billion). Ireland was the third-largest source of dividends, but its value is suppressed due to confidentiality requirements. By industry, U.S. multinationals in chemical manufacturing ($209.1 billion) and computers and electronic products manufacturing ($195.9 billion) repatriated the most in 2018.

Chart of USDIA: Dividends by Country of Affiliate: 2017-2018

 

The U.S. direct investment abroad position, or cumulative level of investment, decreased $62.3 billion to $5.95 trillion at the end of 2018 from $6.01 trillion at the end of 2017, according to statistics released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The decrease was due to the repatriation of accumulated prior earnings by U.S. multinationals from their foreign affiliates, largely in response to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The decrease reflected a $75.8 billion decrease in the position in Latin America and Other Western Hemisphere, primarily in Bermuda. By industry, holding company affiliates owned by U.S. manufacturers accounted for most of the decrease.

The foreign direct investment in the United States position increased $319.1 billion to $4.34 trillion at the end of 2018 from $4.03 trillion at the end of 2017. The increase mainly reflected a $226.1 billion increase in the position from Europe, primarily the Netherlands and Ireland. By industry, affiliates in manufacturing, retail trade, and real estate accounted for the largest increases.

Chart of sDirect Investment Positions, 2017-2018

U.S. direct investment abroad (tables 1 – 6) see tables here: BEA tables

U.S. multinational enterprises (MNEs) invest in nearly every country, but their investment in affiliates in five countries accounted for more than half of the total position at the end of 2018. The U.S. direct investment abroad position remained the largest in the Netherlands at $883.2 billion, followed by the United Kingdom ($757.8 billion), Luxembourg ($713.8 billion), Ireland ($442.2 billion), and Canada ($401.9 billion).

By industry of the directly-owned foreign affiliate, investment was highly concentrated in holding companies, which accounted for nearly half of the overall position in 2018. Most holding company affiliates, which are owned by U.S. parents from a variety of industries, own other foreign affiliates that operate in a variety of industries. By industry of the U.S. parent, investment by manufacturing MNEs accounted for 54.0 percent of the position, followed by MNEs in finance and insurance (12.1 percent).

U.S. MNEs earned income of $531.0 billion in 2018 on their cumulative investment abroad, a 12.8 percent increase from 2017.

Foreign direct investment in the United States (tables 7 – 10) see tables here: BEA tables

By country of the foreign parent, five countries accounted for more than half of the total position at the end of 2018. The United Kingdom remained the top investing country with a position of $560.9 billion. Canada ($511.2 billion) moved up one position from 2017 to be the second-largest investing country, moving Japan ($484.4 billion) into third, while the Netherlands ($479.0 billion) and Luxembourg ($356.0 billion) switched places as the fourth and fifth largest investing countries at the end of 2018.

By country of the ultimate beneficial owner (UBO), the top five countries in terms of position were the United Kingdom ($597.2 billion), Canada ($588.4 billion), Japan ($488.7 billion), Germany ($474.5 billion), and Ireland ($385.3 billion). On this basis, investment from the Netherlands and Luxembourg was much lower than by country of foreign parent, indicating that much of the investment from foreign parents in these countries was ultimately owned by investors in other countries.

Foreign direct investment in the United States was concentrated in the U.S. manufacturing sector, which accounted for 40.8 percent of the position. There was also sizable investment in finance and insurance (12.1 percent).

Foreign MNEs earned income of $208.1 billion in 2018 on their cumulative investment in the United States, a 19.7 percent increase from 2017.

Updates to Direct Investment Statistics Delayed

Updates to BEA’s detailed country and industry statistics for U.S. direct investment abroad and for foreign direct investment in the United States for 2016 and 2017 were delayed due to the impact of the partial federal government shutdown that started in late December 2018. BEA will update the 2016 and 2017 statistics in 2020 along with updates to the 2018 statistics.”

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UK Income From Its Offshore Disclosure Facilities | Kluwer International Tax Blog

Posted by William Byrnes on August 3, 2015


UK Income From Its Offshore Disclosure Facilities | Kluwer International Tax Blog.

In 2011, HMRC forecast that it would receive “billions” from the Swiss Disclosure Facility.  In 2012, HMRC stated that this number would be five billion sterling, and another three billion sterling from the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility (LDF).  This implies that at least a couple hundred thousand United Kingdom tax residents are non tax compliant through not disclosing income and income-producing assets overseas, in offshore countries.  

So what have the results been?  What are the future results likely to be?  Read Byrnes and Perryman at UK Income From Its Offshore Disclosure Facilities | Kluwer International Tax Blog.

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UK Amnesty Not Leading to Disclosure of Tax Evasion in Channels. Is It “Much To Do About Nothing” ?

Posted by William Byrnes on July 22, 2015


In 2011, HMRC forecast that it would receive “billions” from the Swiss Disclosure HM_Treasury_logo.svgFacility.  In 2012, HMRC stated that this number would be 5 billion sterling, and another 3 billion sterling from the LDF.  This implies that a couple hundred thousand United Kingdom tax residents are non tax compliant by not disclosing income and income-producing assets overseas, in offshore countries.  As of that report of data up to 2012, 50,000 taxpayers had come forward through all offshore disclosure facilities, generating one billion in tax, interest, and tax penalties, thus on average 20,000 sterling per disclosure.

My tables and figures are available at International Financial Law Prof Blog.

The offshore noncompliance problem in the context of all non-tax compliance, and all taxpayers, requires first asking how many individual taxpayers file in the UK? see International Financial Law Prof Blog.

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UK HMRC Releases New Policy Documents to Tackle Offshore Evasion

Posted by William Byrnes on July 20, 2015


The government announced four consultations as part of its publication Tackling Evasion andHM_Treasury_logo.svgAvoidance.  These take forward HMRC’s strategy for tackling offshore evasion, No Safe Havens.

The four consultations are:  see International Financial Law Prof Blog.

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International Financial Law Blog headlines

Posted by William Byrnes on August 21, 2014


 

SEC Charges Golfing Buddy with Insider Trading Ahead of Bank Acquisition

O’Neill tipped Robert H. Bray, a fellow golfer with whom he socialized at a local country club. In the two weeks preceding a public announcement about the planned acquisition, Bray sold his shares in other stocks to accumulate funds he used to purchase Wainwright securities.

Barclays Bank adds to its new global financial crime unit

Joe Smith, Wells Fargo’s deputy money-laundering reporting officer and financial crime reporting officer, will join Barclays as a vice-president in October.

Is the UK elimination of criminal intent for criminal prosecution of tax non-compliance sound ? Is tax non-compliance equal with ‘Cruelty to Animals’ and ‘Illegal Guns’?

The Government has announced its intention to introduce a new strict liability criminal offence. This consultation seeks views on the design of this offence.

S630_HMRC_sign__media_library__960_

The UK Government has announced its intention to introduce a new strict liability criminal offence, similar to the crime of cruelty to animals.

Strict liability offences 

2.5 A strict liability offence is a criminal offence where it is not necessary for the court to ascertain the state of mind of the defendant before convicting.

Box 1: Other strict liability offences 

There are several existing offences which can be construed to imply strict liability, including some carrying custodial sentences. These include, for example: …

Cruelty to animals, including the offences of causing unnecessary suffering while transporting an animal or holding it at a market; ….

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/345370/140819_Tackling_offshore_tax_evasion_-_A_new_criminal_offence.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/345236/140819_Tackling_offshore_tax_evasion_-_Strengthening_civil_deterrents.pdf

Posted in Financial Crimes, international taxation | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

FATCA Chapter 1 complementary download

Posted by William Byrnes on July 9, 2014


free chapter download here —> http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2457671   Number of Pages in PDF File: 58

The second edition of the “LexisNexis® Guide to FATCA Compliance,” discussing the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2010 (FATCA), has been vastly improved based on over thirty in-house workshops and interviews with tier 1 banks, company and trust service providers, government revenue departments, and central banks. The enterprises are headquartered in the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the United States, as are the revenue departments and the central bank staff interviewed.Chapter 1 of the book, “Background and Current Status of FATCA,” is available here for free download on SSRN, and also from LexisNexis. The full book is available for purchase from LexisNexis. See weblinks provided in attached PDF. Chapter 1 is primarily authored by Associate Dean William H. Byrnes, IV, of Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s Walter H. & Dorothy B. Diamond International Tax & Financial Services Program, with contributions by Professor Denis Kleinfeld and Dr. Alberto Gil Soriano. The lead author and editor of the overall book is Dean Byrnes (with Dr. Robert J. Munro).

The second edition of the book has been expanded from 25 to 34 chapters, with 150 new pages of regulatory and compliance analysis based upon industry feedback of internal challenges with systems implementation. The 25 chapters in the previous edition have been substantially updated, including many more practical examples, to assist a compliance officer in contextualizing the relevant regulations, provisions of inter-governmental agreements (IGAs), and national rules enacted pursuant to IGAs.

The nine new chapters in this second edition include, for example, an in-depth analysis of the categorization of trusts pursuant to the regulations and IGAs, operational specificity of the mechanisms of information capture, management, and exchange by firms and between countries, insights as to the application of FATCA, and the IGAs within new BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and European country chapters.

This second edition will provide the financial enterprise’s FATCA compliance officer with the tools needed for developing and maintaining a best practices compliance strategy, starting with determining what information is needed for planning the meetings with outside FATCA experts.

book coverPractical Compliance Aspects of FATCA and GATCA

Over 600 pages of in-depth analysis of the practical compliance aspects of financial service business providing for exchange of information of information about foreign residents with their national competent authority or with the IRS (FATCA), see Lexis Guide to FATCA Compliance, 2nd Edition just published!

 

free chapter download here —> http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2457671

Number of Pages in PDF File: 58

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Why Is The IRS Softening the Offshore Voluntary Compliance Program ?

Posted by William Byrnes on June 11, 2014


On June 3, 2014 the IRS Commissioner John A. Koskinen stated before The U.S. Council For International Business-OECD International Tax Conference:

“Now while the 2012 OVDP and its predecessors have operated successfully, we are currently considering making further program modifications to accomplish even more. We are considering whether our voluntary programs have been too focused on those willfully evading their tax obligations and are not accommodating enough to others who don’t necessarily need protection from criminal prosecution because their compliance failures have been of the non-willful variety. For example, we are well aware that there are many U.S. citizens who have resided abroad for many years, perhaps even the vast majority of their lives. We have been considering whether these individuals should have an opportunity to come into compliance that doesn’t involve the type of penalties that are appropriate for U.S.-resident taxpayers who were willfully hiding their investments overseas. We are also aware that there may be U.S.-resident taxpayers with unreported offshore accounts whose prior non-compliance clearly did not constitute willful tax evasion but who, to date, have not had a clear way of coming into compliance that doesn’t involve the threat of substantial penalties.

 We are close to completing our deliberations on these respects and expect that we will soon put forward modifications to the programs currently in place. … We believe that re-striking this balance between enforcement and voluntary compliance is particularly important at this point in time, given that we are nearing July 1, the effective date of FATCA. …”

Amount Recovered Thus Far from Non-Compliant Taxpayers 

According to the GAO Reports and the Senate Subcommittee report, the 2008, 2011, and the ongoing 2012 offshore voluntary disclosure initiative (OVDI) have led to 43,000 taxpayers paying back taxes, interest and penalties totaling $6 billion to date, with more expected.

However, the vast majority of this recovered $6 billion is not tax revenue but instead results from the FBAR penalties (anti money laundering financial reporting form sent by June 30 to FINCEN, separate from the 1040 tax filing to the IRS sent by April 15) assessed for not reporting a foreign account.  The Taxpayer Advocatefound that for noncompliant taxpayers with small accounts, the FBAR and tax penalties reached nearly 600% of the actual tax due!  The median offshore penalty was about 381% of the additional tax assessed for taxpayers with median-sized account balances.

From the IRS OVDP FAQ:

“For example, assume the taxpayer has the following amounts in a foreign account over the period covered by his voluntary disclosure. It is assumed for purposes of the example that the $1,000,000 was in the account before 2003 and was not unreported income in 2003.

 

Year Amount on Deposit Interest Income Account Balance
2003 $1,000,000 $50,000 $1,050,000
2004   $50,000 $1,100,000
2005   $50,000 $1,150,000
2006   $50,000 $1,200,000
2007   $50,000 $1,250,000
2008   $50,000 $1,300,000
2009   $50,000 $1,350,000
2010   $50,000 $1,400,000

(NOTE: This example does not provide for compounded interest, and assumes the taxpayer is in the 35-percent tax bracket, does not have an investment in a Passive Foreign Investment Company (PFIC), files a return but does not include the foreign account or the interest income on the return, and the maximum applicable penalties are imposed.)

If the taxpayers in the above example come forward and their voluntary disclosure is accepted by the IRS, they face this potential scenario:

They would pay $518,000 plus interest. This includes:

  • Tax of $140,000 (8 years at $17,500) plus interest,
  • An accuracy-related penalty of $28,000 (i.e., $140,000 x 20%), and
  • An additional penalty, in lieu of the FBAR and other potential penalties that may apply, of $385,000 (i.e., $1,400,000 x 27.5%).

If the taxpayers didn’t come forward, when the IRS discovered their offshore activities, they would face up to $4,543,000 in tax, accuracy-related penalty, and FBAR penalty.”

The IRS example to enter the OVDP has 75% of the OVDP collection amount from the FBAR penalty.  The FBAR penalty is 2.75 larger than the tax due.  But not entering leads to owing an amount four times the account value.

Thus, judged by the amount of tax funds recovered, the OVDP has substantially underperformed to date.  But by leveraging a taxpayer’s lack of compliance with the non-tax FBAR, the OVDP and IRS civil prosecutions appear to meet performance goals of raising revenue and obtaining overall tax compliance for US persons with foreign accounts and/or residing abroad.  Or do they?

Have These Initiatives Increased Taxpayer Compliance?

The Taxpayer Advocate, replying on State Department statistics, cited that 7.6 million U.S. citizens reside abroad and many more U.S. residents have FBAR filing requirements, yet the IRS received only 807,040 FBAR submissions as recently as 2012.  The Taxpayer Advocate noted that in Mexico alone, more than one million U.S. citizens reside, and many Mexican citizens reside in the U.S. (and thus are required to file a FBAR for any Mexican accounts of $10,000 or greater).  Moreover, Non-Resident Aliens (NRAs) must file a FBAR as well.  Thus, all the initiatives to date have produced a compliance rate below 10% compliance.  Sounds more like the War on Drugs rather than a drive to increase tax compliance.

This is not to say that obtaining a highly level of compliance with the tax law, like compliance with the drug laws and DUI laws, is not a public good in itself – such tax compliance is a public good that the public has chosen, via Congress (and its investigatory hearings), for resource allocation. But like the War on Drugs, there are many potential strategies to bring about compliance.  The ones used to date just haven’t worked very well, and caused more problems (the War on Drugs has led to one of the highest rates of imprisonment of the world, that some have called a scorched earth policy against young male minorities in particular).

Have These Initiatives Met the Tax Collection Goals?

The Subcommittee Report states: “Offshore tax evasion has been an issue of concern … because lost tax revenues contribute to the U.S. annual deficit, which today exceeds $500 billion. Collecting unpaid taxes is one way to reduce the deficit without raising taxes.”

The Senate Subcommittee reported that: “According to the IRS, the current estimated annual U.S. tax gap is $450 billion, which represents the total amount of U.S. taxes owed but not paid on time, despite an overall tax compliance rate among American taxpayers of 83 percent. Contributing to that annual tax gap are offshore tax schemes responsible for lost tax revenues totaling an estimated $150 billion each year.”

To justify the reporting of the number of $150 billion a year of lost tax revenue due to “offshore tax schemes”, the Senate Report primarily cites its own investigatory reports and third party articles that refer to transfer pricing issues.  While transfer pricing regulations have been under scrutiny, at least by the Democrats, in the Senate, it is certainly not commonly held by those same Democrats that transfer pricing is illegal or constitutes an “offshore scheme”.

It is proven beyond a doubt by the UBS, Credit Suisse, and other similar investigations, validated by the OVDI disclosures, that some Americans are noncompliant, and that some of those noncompliant Americans would owe tax if disclosing foreign income on their tax returns.  There is also no doubt that the total number of noncompliant Americans between 2008 and 2013 was more than the 43,000 who were brought in from the wilderness.

There is also no doubt that the tax that would have been collected from these noncompliant taxpayers had they been compliant during their time in the wilderness is in fact, relative to the reported figure of $150 billion lost annually, miniscule (somewhere probably between $300 million and $500 million a year for lost tax (recalling the majority of the $6 billion collected representing FBAR penalties, tax penalties, and interest).  To date, of the $150 billion referred to as lost a year to offshore schemes, only approximately .003% (a third of one percent) has been collected – and that assuming the higher number of $500 million a year.  Not a good result by any measure.  And not going to dent the annual $450B – $500B deficit (not including unfunded liabilities).

Are More Than 90% of Taxpayers with Foreign Accounts Tax Evaders?

The Taxpayer Advocate, relying on State Department statistics, cited that 7.6 million U.S. citizens reside abroad.  Most are required to file a FBAR.  The Taxpayer Advocate noted that in Mexico alone, more than one million U.S. citizens reside, and many Mexican citizens reside in the U.S. (and thus are required to file a FBAR for any Mexican accounts of $10,000 or greater).

Many more U.S. residents have FBAR filing requirements because of having signatory, control, or ownership of an overseas account.  The Department of Homeland Security reported in Population Estimates (July 2013) that an estimated 13.3 million LPRs lived in the United States as of January 1, 2012, some of who will have FBAR filing requirements.

For 2011, approximately four million individual returns included foreign source income and 450,000 included the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.  Yet the IRS received only 807,040 FBAR submissions as recently as 2012.

Based on these numbers, more than 90% of taxpayers with foreign accounts are NOT compliant with the FBAR filing requirement.  Add it up: 7.6 million Americans abroad, 13.3 LPRs in the USA, at least 1 million NRAs in the US, and some number of American citizens in the US with foreign accounts.  Must equal at least 10 million taxpayers that should be filing the FBAR.   The IRS has stated that a substantial number of US taxpayers living abroad do not file tax returns at all.

The IRS reports that 87% of American residing taxpayers are tax compliant.  So the remaining 13% … statistically speaking, being an American residing in America and having a foreign account is indicative of tax evasion, especially if FBAR is considered a “tax” compliance obligation (which it is not).

Based on these numbers, being an American living in a foreign country is a leading cause of criminality.  What the statistics do not tell is which comes first: criminality or foreign activity?  A person tends toward criminality and thus opens a foreign account or moves to a foreign country?  Or the act of moving abroad to a foreign country leads to criminality?  Absurd questions?      

Is the FBAR form necessary?  Why has it not been combined with the 1040?  Why not with the new 8938?  Questions to ponder in another article.

Posted in Compliance, FATCA | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

110 Swiss client accounts turned over to IRS

Posted by William Byrnes on May 13, 2014


Swisspartners Enters into Non Prosecution Agreement and Turns Over US clients account information

The Tax Division of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the IRS’ Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) announced a major victory in their joint campaign “… to identify U.S. tax cheats who have hidden behind phony offshore trusts and foundations,” said Deputy Attorney General Cole in the Friday, May 9, 2014 release by the DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs.

“This office will continue to work aggressively to hold accountable not only those U.S. taxpayers who evade their tax obligations by hiding money overseas, but also those abroad who make such tax evasion possible,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara.

The asset management firm, Swisspartners, entered into a non-prosecution agreement (NPA), the terms of which were verified by signature in a May 8, 2014 DOJ letter attached to the May 9th  complaint filed with the New York Southern District.  Almost a year ago, the DOJ reported that in July 2013 Liechtensteinische Landesbank AG, a bank based in Vaduz, Liechtenstein that owns 71% of Swisspartners, entered into a non-prosecution agreement and agreed to pay more than $23.8 million stemming from its offshore banking activities, and turned over more than 200 account files of U.S. taxpayers who held undeclared accounts at the bank.

“I am very pleased that we have successfully concluded negotiations with the Swisspartners Group,” said IRS-CI Chief Weber .  “In making amends, the Swisspartners Group has turned over 110 account files relating to U.S. taxpayer-clients who maintained undeclared assets overseas….”

Swisspartners Group confessed to assisting U.S. taxpayer-clients in opening and maintaining undeclared foreign bank accounts from in or about 2001 through in or about 2011.  The DOJ provided the following factors as the basis of the NPA:

  • the Swisspartners Group’s voluntary implementation of various remedial measures beginning in or about May 2008;
  • the Swisspartners Group’s voluntary self-reporting in 2012 of its criminal conduct at a time when it was neither a subject nor target of any investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice;
  • the Swisspartners Group’s voluntary and extraordinary cooperation, including its voluntary production of account files that include the identities of U.S. taxpayer-clients;
  • the Swisspartners Group’s willingness to continue to cooperate to the extent permitted by applicable law;
  • the Swisspartners Group’s representation, based on an investigation by outside counsel, the results of which have been shared with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Tax Division, that the misconduct under investigation did not, and does not, extend beyond that described in the Statement of Facts; and
  • the NPA requires the Swisspartners Group to continue to cooperate with the United States for at least three years from the date of the agreement.

The NPA requires the Swisspartners Group to forfeit $3.5 million to the United States, representing certain fees that it earned by assisting its U.S. taxpayer-clients in opening and maintaining these undeclared accounts, and to pay $900,000 in restitution to the IRS, representing the approximate amount of unpaid taxes arising from the tax evasion by the Swisspartners Group’s U.S. taxpayer-clients from 2001 to 2011.  In the complaint, Swisspartners admitted to:

  1. establishing sham corporate entities whereby the clients continued to maintain control of accounts,
  2. smuggling cash, in the tens of thousands, without reporting into the US to deliver to its clients, and
  3. establishing sham insurance policies with premiums from undeclared sources and in which the clients continued to control the underlying investments.

On its website, Swisspartners states: “swisspartners analyzes your tax and fiscal law situation and provides structuring services at an international level – complementary to the services provided by your tax advisor in your home country.”  Regarding insurance policies, its website states: “swisspartners designs private-placement insurance contracts that take into account the legal and tax requirements of the countries in which the family members involved have their fiscal domiciles.  Not only are our efficiently designed contracts not subject to ongoing taxation in the asset owner’s country of residence, they are also non-taxable in several other countries.

In the DOJ release statements, Deputy Attorney General Cole stated, “Swisspartners avoided criminal charges as a direct result of its decision to self-report its misconduct at a time when it was not even under investigation and its extraordinary cooperation, including its decision to turn over voluntarily the files and identities of U.S. taxpayer clients it helped hide money from the IRS.  The case serves as a clear example of the benefits that can be obtained from early and complete cooperation with federal law enforcement.”

What is the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters for Swiss Banks?

The Tax Division of the Department of Justice released a statement on December 12, 2013 that strongly encouraged Swiss banks wanting to seek non-prosecution agreements to resolve past cross-border criminal tax violations to submit letters of intent by a Dec. 31, 2013 deadline required by the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters (the “Program“).  The Program was announced on Aug. 29, 2013, in a joint statement signed by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole and Ambassador Manuel Sager of Switzerland (> See the Swiss government’s explanation of the Program < ).  Switzerland’s Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) had issued a deadline of Monday, December 16, 2013 for a bank to inform it with its intention to apply for the DOJ’s Program.

106 Swiss Banks Enter DOJ’s NPA program

David Voreacos of Bloomberg News reported that Kathryn Keneally, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, in her keynote remarks to the American Bar Association Section of Taxation mid-year  (January 25, 2014), stated that 106 Swiss banks (of approximately 300 total) filed the requisite letter of intent to join the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters (the “Program“) by the December 31, 2013 deadline.  Renown attorney and Professor Jack Townsend reported on his blog on April 30, 2014 a list of 52 Swiss banks that had publicly announced the intention to submit the letter of intent, as well as each bank’s category for entry: six announced seeking category 4 status, eight for category 3, thirty-eight for category 2.

However, while 106 may be a large jump from a mid-December report by the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (“SwissInfo”) that only a few Swiss banks had filed for non prosecution with the DOJ’s program, William R. Davis and Lee A. Sheppard of Tax Analysts’ Worldwide Tax Daily reported that “one private practitioner estimated that some 350 banks holding 40,000 accounts have not come in.” (see “ABA Meeting: Keneally Reports Success With Swiss Bank Program”, Jan. 28, 2014, 2014 WTD 18-3.)

Framework of Swiss Bank NPA Program

The DOJ statement described the framework of the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements: every Swiss bank not currently under formal criminal investigation concerning offshore activities will be able to provide the cooperation necessary to resolve potential criminal matters with the DOJ.  Currently, the department is actively investigating the Swiss-based activities of 14 banks.  Those banks, referred to as Category 1 banks in the Program, are expressly excluded from the Program.  Category 1 Banks against which the DOJ has initiated a criminal investigation as of 29 August 2013 (date of program publication).

On November 5, 2013 the Tax Division of the DOJ released comments about the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters for Swiss Banks.  Swiss banks that have committed violations of U.S. tax laws and wished to cooperate and receive a non-prosecution agreement under the Program, known as Category 2 banks, had until Dec. 31, 2013 to submit a letter of intent to join the program, and the category sought.

To be eligible for a non-prosecution agreement, Category 2 banks must meet several requirements, which include agreeing to pay penalties based on the amount held in undeclared U.S. accounts, fully disclosing their cross-border activities, and providing detailed information on an account-by-account basis for accounts in which U.S. taxpayers have a direct or indirect interest.  Providing detailed information regarding other banks that transferred funds into secret accounts or that accepted funds when secret accounts were closed is also a stipulation for eligibility. The Swiss Federal Department of Finance has released a > model order and guidance note < that will allow Swiss banks to cooperate with the DOJ and fulfill the requirements of the Program.

The DOJ’s November 2013 comments responded to such issues as: (a) Bank-specific issues and issues concerning individuals, (b) Choosing which category among 2, 3, or 4, (c) Qualifications of independent examiner (attorney or accountant), (d) Content of independent examiner report, (e) Information required under the Program – no aggregate account data, (f) Penalty calculation – permitted reductions, (g) Category 4 banks – retroactive application of FATCA Annex II, paragraph II.A.1, and (h) Civil penalties.

Which of Four Categories To File for Non-Prosecution Under?

Regarding which category to file under, the DOJ replied: “Each eligible Swiss bank should carefully analyze whether it is a category 2, 3 or 4 bank. While it may appear more desirable for a bank to attempt to position itself as a category 3 or 4 bank to receive a non-target letter, no non-target letter will be issued to any bank as to which the Department has information of criminal culpability. If the Department learns of criminal conduct by the bank after a non-target letter has been issued, the bank is not protected from prosecution for that conduct. If the bank has hidden or misrepresented its activities to obtain a non-target letter, it is exposed to increased criminal liability.”

SwissInfo reported that Migros Bank selected Program Category 2 because “370 of its 825,000 clients, mostly Swiss citizens residing temporarily in the US or clients with dual nationality”, met the criteria of US taxpayer.  Valiant told SwissInfo that “an internal review showed it had never actively sought US clients or visited Americans to drum up business. The bank said less than 0.1% of its clients were American.”

Category 2

Banks against which the DoJ has not initiated a criminal investigation but have reasons to believe that that they have violated US tax law in their dealings with clients are subject to fines of on a flat-rate basis.  Set scale of fine rates (%) applied to the untaxed US assets of the bank in question:

  1. Existing accounts on 01.08.2008: 20%
  2. New accounts opened between 01.08.2008 and 28.02.2009: 30%
  3. New accounts after 28.02.2009: 50%

Category 2 banks must delivery of information on cross-border business with US clients, name and function of the employees and third parties concerned, anonymised data on terminated client relationships including statistics as to where the accounts re-domiciled.

Category 3

Banks have no reason to believe that they have violated US tax law in their dealings with clients and that can have this demonstrated by an independent third party. A category 3 bank must provide to the IRS the data on its total US assets under management and confirmation of an effective compliance program in force.

Category 4

Banks are a local business in accordance with the FATCA definition.

Independence of Qualified Attorney or Accountant Examiner

Regarding the requirement of the independence of the qualified attorney or accountant examiner, the DOJ stated that the examiner “is not an advocate, agent, or attorney for the bank, nor is he or she an advocate or agent for the government. He or she must provide a neutral, dispassionate analysis of the bank’s activities. Communications with the independent examiner should not be considered confidential or protected by any privilege or immunity.”  The attorney / accountant’s report must be substantive, detailed, and address the requirements set out in the DOJ’s non-prosecution Program.  The DOJ stated that “Banks are required to cooperate fully and “come clean” to obtain the protection that is offered under the Program.”

In the ‘bottom line’ words of the DOJ: “Each eligible Swiss bank should carefully weigh the benefits of coming forward, and the risks of not taking this opportunity to be fully forthcoming. A bank that has engaged in or facilitated U.S. tax-related or monetary transaction crimes has a unique opportunity to resolve its criminal liability under the Program. Those that have criminal exposure but fail to come forward or participate but are not fully forthcoming do so at considerable risk.”

(Chapter updates since November 2013 are available at https://profwilliambyrnes.com/category/fatca/)book cover

The LexisNexis® Guide to FATCA Compliance (2nd Edition) comprises 34 Chapters of the analysis of 50 FATCA experts grouped in three parts: compliance program (Chapters 1–4), analysis of FATCA regulations (Chapters 5–16) and analysis of Intergovernmental Agreements (IGAs) and local law compliance requirements (Chapters 17–34), including  information exchange protocols and systems.  complimentary chapter download: http://www.lexisnexis.com/store/images/samples/9780769853734.pdf


If you are interested in discussing the Master or Doctoral degree in the areas of financial services or international taxation, please contact me: profbyrnes@gmail.com to Google Hangout or Skype that I may take you on an “online tour” 

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Former Credit Suisse Banker Pleads Guilty

Posted by William Byrnes on May 2, 2014


Former Credit Suisse Banker Pleads Guilty

Josef Dörig, 72, plead guilty on April 30 to conspiring to defraud the IRS in connection with his work as the owner of Dorig Partner AG, a trust company in Switzerland.

In a statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, Dörig admitted that between 1997 and 2011, while owning and operating a trust company, he engaged in a wide-ranging conspiracy to aid and assist U.S. customers in evading their income taxes by concealing assets and income in secret bank accounts held in the names of sham entities at Credit Suisse.  In 1997, the Credit Suisse subsidiary spun off these sham entities into a trust company, Dorig Partner AG, owned and operated by Dorig, the Justice Department said.

Sentencing is set for Aug. 8th and Dörig faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Credit Suisse Agrees to Pay $196 Million and Admits Wrongdoing in Providing Unregistered Services to U.S. Clients

In the February 21, 2014 Press Release by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) “Credit Suisse Agrees to Pay $196 Million and Admits Wrongdoing in Providing Unregistered Services to U.S. Clients“, Credit Suisse agreed to pay $196 million and admit wrongdoing to settle the SEC’s charges.  According to the SEC’s order instituting settled administrative proceedings, Credit Suisse provided cross-border securities services to thousands of U.S. clients and collected fees totaling approximately $82 million without adhering to the registration provisions of the federal securities laws.  Credit Suisse relationship managers traveled to the U.S. to solicit clients, provide investment advice, and induce securities transactions.  These relationship managers were not registered to provide brokerage or advisory services, nor were they affiliated with a registered entity.  The relationship managers also communicated with clients in the U.S. through overseas e-mails and phone calls.

Credit Suisse Hearing 

The seven hour hearing of the US Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on tax evasion associated with unreported bank accounts of Americans held about Credit Suisse in February 2014 provides a good background to understand the Justice Department indictment and guilty plea.  Below I paraphrase and excerpt the most intriguing statements of the hearing.

Based upon its two-year investigation, the Subcommittee reported that Credit Suisse opened Swiss accounts for over 22,000 U.S. customers with assets that, at their peak, totaled roughly $10 billion to $12 billion.  The Subcommittee stated that the vast majority of these accounts were hidden from U.S. authorities and that U.S. law enforcement officials have been slow to collect the unpaid taxes or hold accountable the tax evaders and bank involved.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the subcommittee chairman said “The Credit Suisse case study shows how a Swiss bank aided and abetted U.S. tax evasion, not only from behind a veil of secrecy in Switzerland, but also on U.S. soil by sending Swiss bankers here to open hidden accounts. In response, the Department of Justice has failed to use the U.S. legal tools that won the UBS case and has instead used treaty requests for U.S. client names, relying on Swiss courts with predictably poor results. It’s time to ramp up the collection of taxes due from tax evaders on the billions of dollars hidden offshore.”

“For too long, international financial institutions like Credit Suisse have profited from their offshore tax haven schemes while depriving the U.S. economy of billions of dollars in tax revenues by facilitating U.S. tax evasion,” said Senator John McCain, ranking member of the subcommittee. “As federal regulators begin to crack down on these banks’ illicit practices, it is imperative that they use every legal tool at their disposal to hold these banks fully accountable for willfully deceiving the U.S. government and seek penalties that will deter similar misconduct in the future.”

Amount Recovered Thus Far from Non-Compliant Taxpayers 

According to the GAO Reports and the Subcommittee report, the 2008, 2011, and the ongoing 2012 offshore voluntary disclosure initiative (OVDI) have led to 43,000 taxpayers paying back taxes, interest and penalties totaling $6 billion to date, with more expected.  However, the vast majority of this recovered money is not tax revenue but instead results from the FBAR penalties assessed for not reporting a foreign account.  The Taxpayer Advocate found that for noncompliant taxpayers with small accounts, the FBAR and tax penalties reached nearly 600% of the actual tax due!  The median offshore penalty was about381% of the additional tax assessed for taxpayers with median-sized account balances.

Have These Efforts Substantially Increased Taxpayer Compliance?

The Taxpayer Advocate, replying on State Department statistics,  cited that 7.6 million U.S. citizens reside abroad and many more U.S. residents have FBAR filing requirements, yet the IRS received only 807,040 FBAR submissions as recently as 2012.  The Taxpayer Advocate noted that in Mexico alone, more than one million U.S. citizens reside, and many Mexican citizens reside in the U.S. (and thus are required to file a FBAR for any Mexican accounts of $10,000 or greater).

Thus, at a current rate well below 10% compliance (because nonresident aliens in the US must file a FBAR on their non-US accounts of $10,000 and over), it appears that all the additional enforcement is producing similar results of the War on Drugs.  This is not to say that obtaining a highly level of compliance with the tax law , like compliance with the drug laws and DUI laws, is not a public good in itself – it indeed is a public good that the public has chosen, via Congress (and its investigatory hearings), for resource allocation. But like the War on Drugs, there are many potential strategies to bring about compliance, about which pundits such as law enforcement officials, social libertarians, the medical profession, and all their paid lobbyists, debate.

Credit Suisse Statement to Subcommittee:

Credit Suisse is a global financial services company with operations in more than 50 countries and over 45,000 employees including approximately 9,000 U.S. employees in 19 U.S. locations. In the United States, Credit Suisse is a Financial Holding Company regulated by the Federal Reserve. The Bank has a New York branch, which is supervised by the New York Department of Financial Services, and we have three regulated U.S. broker/dealer subsidiaries. Our primary U.S. broker/dealer has been designated a Systemically Important Financial Institution under the Dodd-Frank law. We have a substantial business presence here in the United States.

Credit Suisse Exit of U.S. Relationships

Following our decision to prohibit former U.S. clients of UBS from transferring their assets to Credit Suisse, in August 2008, Credit Suisse promptly turned to addressing issues highlighted by the UBS situation. In October 2008, Credit Suisse decided to allow relationships with non-U.S. entities that had U.S. beneficial owners only if they demonstrated U.S. tax compliance. We hired a leading Swiss law firm to review the tax status of U.S. clients that wanted to remain. By the end of the first year of review, all but 135 relationships with assets over $10,000 had been reviewed and resolved.

In April 2009, we extended our review to U.S. resident clients. Credit Suisse transferred virtually all U.S. resident accounts to one of the Bank’s U.S.-registered affiliates, or terminated the relationships. Credit Suisse simply shut down those client relationships that were unwilling to move or that did not meet the $1 million requirement for transfer to the Bank’s U.S.-regulated affiliates. By the end of the first full year of review, 2010, we had reviewed and resolved more than 85% of U.S.-resident relationships with assets over $10,000.

To ensure that the review was comprehensive, we also manually searched for accounts that, although not identified in our systems as U.S.-linked, could possibly have some U.S. connection – for example, a U.S. phone number or address in the paper client file, or a notation of a U.S. birthplace on a foreign passport. Credit Suisse also reviewed the private banking activities of its subsidiaries, including Clariden Leu, which was a nearly wholly owned Credit Suisse subsidiary between 2007 and 2012. Clariden Leu’s review and exit projects paralleled the projects at Credit Suisse.

Credit Suisse also engaged one of the Big Four accounting firms to conduct its own review to assess whether the Bank had effectively identified the account relationships with U.S. links. This firm carefully analyzed the Bank’s efforts – with an intense line-by-line analysis of account information – and concluded to an extremely high level of confidence that Credit Suisse had identified the complete population of U.S. account relationships. The results of this substantial effort have been presented to the Subcommittee staff.

Subcommittee “Undeclared Accounts” Methodologies Unreliable

Credit Suisse repeatedly discussed with the Subcommittee staff the fact that it is impossible for us to know the tax status of assets previously held by U.S. clients if those clients did not disclose that information to the Bank. Unfortunately, the Subcommittee has chosen to speculate based on a number of “methodologies,” each of which is problematic and generates results that are, at best, unreliable. The Subcommittee’s need to reference three conflicting “methodologies” is an implicit recognition that accurate estimates of unreported U.S. client assets previously held at Credit Suisse cannot be made based on the actual information available to the Bank and to the Subcommittee.

8,300 Accounts under $10,000 FBAR Reporting Requirement

In any event, the Subcommittee assumes that every U.S. client account held abroad was undeclared. As discussed below, that is a demonstrably inappropriate assumption. Moreover, U.S. Treasury Department regulations required U.S. citizens to report foreign accounts only if the balance exceeded $10,000 at some point during the year. While the Subcommittee staff has mentioned 22,000 accounts, more than 8,300 had balances below $10,000 as of December 31, 2008.

6,400 Accounts for US Expats Residing in Switzerland

Troublingly, these estimates also lump in categories of accounts where there is every reason to believe that the client had a valid reason for holding a Swiss account. For example, the Subcommittee’s estimates of “undeclared” accounts include approximately 6,400 accounts held by all U.S. expats who would ordinarily have a need for some form of local banking services outside of the U.S. Again, it should not be ignored that most expats resided in Switzerland, and therefore had a particularly valid reason for maintaining a bank near their homes.

Finally, each of the three “methodologies” that the Subcommittee staff has raised is problematic for different reasons:

First Methodology No Factual Basis

The first method wrongly suggests that the number of accounts closed during the Bank’s

“Exit Projects” may be a proxy for “undeclared” accounts. The Bank’s “Exit Projects” revealed that U.S. clients left the Bank for various reasons. For example, Credit Suisse decided to simply shut down around 11,000 U.S. resident accounts when the Bank decided to stop having Swiss-based private bankers service U.S. residents and because those clients’ balances did not meet the $1 million requirement for transfer to the U.S. regulated affiliates. Those clients never had the opportunity to demonstrate tax compliance because their accounts were simply terminated. There is no basis factually to assume that all of these clients were not tax compliant.

Second Methodology Unsupported

The second method, the “UBS method,” is simply unsupported. This method proposes to estimate accounts by considering all accounts without Forms W-9 to be “undeclared” U.S. accounts. The absence of a Form W-9 alone in no way supports an inference that a client failed to report the account to the IRS, or that the Bank was aware that the client failed to do so. The Qualified Intermediary Agreement with the IRS required the preparation of a Form W-9 only if the client maintained U.S. securities. If the client did not maintain U.S. securities, a Form W-9 was not required. These are the IRS’s rules. Because this method does not consider whether the client maintained U.S. securities, it is inaccurate to assume that the account was maintained to evade U.S. taxes.

Third Methodology Inconclusive

Nor is the third method conclusive. The so-called “DOJ Estimate” recounts a figure of $4 billion stated in an indictment of certain Bank relationship managers. Because the grand jury’s proceedings are secret, neither we nor the Subcommittee have any basis to assess the grand jury’s methodologies.

Credit Suisse Assets Under Management

As to Assets under Management (AuM), it should be noted that our exit projects established that an approximate amount of $5 billion of AuM was reviewed and verified for tax compliance over the years. This number includes AuM transferred to our U.S.-registered entities or closed after tax compliance was established. In addition, approximately $2.25 billion AuM lost its U.S. nexus over the years. Finally, of the accounts that were closed over the years we simply have no basis to assume that all of them were undeclared.

It was discussed between the Senators and the representatives of Credit Suisse that the actual amount of AUM compared to Credit Suisse’s AuM was miniscule, and that such AuM contributed less than 1% to Credit Suisse’s profits.  However, Senator John McCain, the minority ranking member, told the Credit Suisse representatives that, while small in the context of the bank, amounts of billions and the profits made therefrom, are large amounts to a American taxpayer if made aware of such conduct.  While listening to the Senator’s assessment (and agreeing), I wondered why in contrast hundreds of billions of annual deficits up to nearly a trillion deficit, and 15, 17, perhaps 20 trillion of national debt don’t seem to phase the same taxpayer referred to?

Internal Investigation

Nor did we turn a blind eye to the past. On the contrary, we invested enormous efforts to achieve as much clarity as possible about whether, and to what extent, Credit Suisse employees had violated U.S. laws or helped clients do so. Credit Suisse asked external counsel to investigate any instances of past improper conduct fully. That investigation was broad and deep.

The U.S. law firm King & Spalding and the Swiss law firm Schellenberg Wittmer led the investigation, with help from a major accounting firm. The investigation reviewed all aspects of the Bank’s Swiss-based private banking business with U.S. customers. It involved more than 100 interviews of Credit Suisse and Clariden Leu personnel, from line-level private bankers to senior leaders of the Bank. The investigation reviewed the conduct of bankers across the Swiss private bank who had a number of U.S. clients or traveled to the United States.

The investigation identified evidence of violations of Bank policy centered on a small group of Swiss-based private bankers. That conduct centered on a group of private bankers within a desk of 15 to 20 private bankers at any given time who were focused on larger accounts of U.S. residents. Most of the improper activity was focused on some private bankers who traveled to the United States once or twice a year; otherwise, the investigation found only scattered evidence of improper conduct.

The investigation did not find any evidence that senior executives of Credit Suisse knew these bankers were apparently helping U.S. customers hide income and assets. To the contrary, the evidence showed that some Swiss-based private bankers went to great lengths to disguise their bad conduct from Credit Suisse executive management.

Cooperation with U.S. Authorities

Credit Suisse has consistently cooperated with the investigations led by the Department of Justice, the SEC, and this Subcommittee, going to the greatest extent permissible by Swiss law to provide information to investigating U.S. authorities.

Since early 2011, Credit Suisse has produced hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, including translations of foreign-language documents. Our representatives have met with the Department of Justice to help them understand the information we provided and to describe the findings of our internal investigation and the Bank’s various compliance efforts.

Credit Suisse has also provided briefings to officials from the U.S. government, including the SEC and this Subcommittee. That includes more than 100 hours briefing the Subcommittee staff on details of the private banking business and the internal investigation and thousands more hours answering written questions from Subcommittee staff. Specifically, Credit Suisse produced over 580,000 pages of documents, provided 11 detailed briefings to the Subcommittee staff in all-day, or multi-day, sessions, provided 12 substantive written submissions, and made 17 witnesses available from both the United States and Switzerland, including the Bank’s General Counsel, co-heads of the Private Bank and Wealth Management Division, and the CEO.

Report Offshore Tax Evasion: The Effort to Collect Unpaid Taxes on Billions in Hidden Offshore Accounts

The 175-page bipartisan staff report released Tuesday February 25 outlines how Credit Suisse engaged in similar conduct from at least 2001 to 2008, sending Swiss bankers into the United States to recruit U.S. customers, opening Swiss accounts that were not disclosed to U.S. authorities, including accounts opened in the name of offshore shell entities, and servicing Swiss accounts here in the United States without leaving a paper trail.  For the complete analysis of the reportm see https://profwilliambyrnes.com/2014/02/26/senate-subcommittee-hearing-and-report-on-offshore-tax-evasion/

 

106 Swiss Banks Seek Non-Prosecution from US Justice Department for Past Tax Evasion by Clients

106 Swiss banks (of approximately 300 total) filed the requisite letter of intent to join the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters (the “Program“) by the December 31, 2013 deadline.  Renown attorney Jack Townsend reported on his blog on February 14th provided a list of 49 Swiss banks that had publicly announced the intention to submit the letter of intent, as well as each bank’s category for entry: six announced seeking category 4 status, eight for category 3, thirty-five for category 2.  106 was a large jump from the mid-December report by the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (“SwissInfo”) that only a few had filed for non prosecution with the DOJ’s program (e.g. Migros Bank, Bank COOP, Valiant, Berner Kantonalbank and Vontobel).

What is the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters for Swiss Banks?

The Tax Division of the Department of Justice released a statement on December 12, 2013 strongly encouraging Swiss banks wanting to seek non-prosecution agreements to resolve past cross-border criminal tax violations to submit letters of intent by a Dec. 31, 2013 deadline required by the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters (the “Program“).  The Program was announced on Aug. 29, 2013, in a joint statement signed by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole and Ambassador Manuel Sager of Switzerland (> See the Swiss government’s explanation of the Program < ).  Switzerland’s Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) has issued a deadline of Monday, December 16, 2013 for a bank to inform it with its intention to apply for the DOJ’s Program.[2]

The DOJ statement described the framework of the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements: every Swiss bank not currently under formal criminal investigation concerning offshore activities will be able to provide the cooperation necessary to resolve potential criminal matters with the DOJ.  Currently, the department is actively investigating the Swiss-based activities of 14 banks.  Those banks, referred to as Category 1 banks in the Program, are expressly excluded from the Program.  Category 1 Banks against which the DoJ has initiated a criminal investigation as of 29 August 2013 (date of program publication).

On November 5, 2013 the Tax Division of the DOJ had released comments about the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters for Swiss Banks.

Swiss banks that have committed violations of U.S. tax laws and wished to cooperate and receive a non-prosecution agreement under the Program, known as Category 2 banks, had until Dec. 31, 2013 to submit a letter of intent to join the program, and the category sought.

To be eligible for a non-prosecution agreement, Category 2 banks must meet several requirements, which include agreeing to pay penalties based on the amount held in undeclared U.S. accounts, fully disclosing their cross-border activities, and providing detailed information on an account-by-account basis for accounts in which U.S. taxpayers have a direct or indirect interest.  Providing detailed information regarding other banks that transferred funds into secret accounts or that accepted funds when secret accounts were closed is also a stipulation for eligibility. The Swiss Federal Department of Finance has released a > model order and guidance note < that will allow Swiss banks to cooperate with the DOJ and fulfill the requirements of the Program.

The DOJ’s November comments responded to such issues as: (a) Bank-specific issues and issues concerning individuals, (b) Choosing which category among 2, 3, or 4, (c) Qualifications of independent examiner (attorney or accountant), (d) Content of independent examiner report, (e) Information required under the Program – no aggregate account data, (f) Penalty calculation – permitted reductions, (g) Category 4 banks – retroactive application of FATCA Annex II, paragraph II.A.1, and (h) Civil penalties.

Which of Four Categories To File for Non-Prosecution Under?

Regarding which category to file under, the DOJ replied: “Each eligible Swiss bank should carefully analyze whether it is a category 2, 3 or 4 bank. While it may appear more desirable for a bank to attempt to position itself as a category 3 or 4 bank to receive a non-target letter, no non-target letter will be issued to any bank as to which the Department has information of criminal culpability. If the Department learns of criminal conduct by the bank after a non-target letter has been issued, the bank is not protected from prosecution for that conduct. If the bank has hidden or misrepresented its activities to obtain a non-target letter, it is exposed to increased criminal liability.”

Category 2

Banks against which the DoJ has not initiated a criminal investigation but have reasons to believe that that they have violated US tax law in their dealings with clients are subject to fines of on a flat-rate basis.  Set scale of fine rates (%) applied to the untaxed US assets of the bank in question:

– Existing accounts on 01.08.2008: 20%
– New accounts opened between 01.08.2008 and 28.02.2009: 30%
– New accounts after 28.02.2009: 50%

Category 2 banks must delivery of information on cross-border business with US clients, name and function of the employees and third parties concerned, anonymised data on terminated client relationships including statistics as to where the accounts re-domiciled.

Category 3

Banks have no reason to believe that they have violated US tax law in their dealings with clients and that can have this demonstrated by an independent third party. A category 3 bank must provide to the IRS the data on its total US assets under management and confirmation of an effective compliance programme in force.

Category 4

Banks are a local business in accordance with the FATCA definition.

Independence of Qualified Attorney or Accountant Examiner

Regarding the requirement of the independence of the qualified attorney or accountant examiner, the DOJ stated that the examiner “is not an advocate, agent, or attorney for the bank, nor is he or she an advocate or agent for the government. He or she must provide a neutral, dispassionate analysis of the bank’s activities. Communications with the independent examiner should not be considered confidential or protected by any privilege or immunity.”  The attorney / accountant’s report must be substantive, detailed, and address the requirements set out in the DOJ’s non-prosecution Program.  The DOJ stated that “Banks are required to cooperate fully and “come clean” to obtain the protection that is offered under the Program.”

In the ‘bottom line’ words of the DOJ: “Each eligible Swiss bank should carefully weigh the benefits of coming forward, and the risks of not taking this opportunity to be fully forthcoming. A bank that has engaged in or facilitated U.S. tax-related or monetary transaction crimes has a unique opportunity to resolve its criminal liability under the Program. Those that have criminal exposure but fail to come forward or participate but are not fully forthcoming do so at considerable risk.”

LexisNexis FATCA Compliance Manual

book cover

The LexisNexis® Guide to FATCA Compliance comprises 34 Chapters by 50 contributors grouped in three parts: compliance program (Chapters 1–4), analysis of FATCA regulations (Chapters 5–16) and analysis of FATCA’s application for certain trading partners of the U.S. (Chapters 17–34), including intergovernmental agreements as well as the OECD’s TRACE initiative for global automatic information exchange protocols and systems. The 34 chapters include many practical examples to assist a compliance officer contextualize the regulations, IGA provisions, and national rules enacted pursuant to an IGA.  Chapters include by example an in-depth analysis of the categorization of trusts pursuant to the Regulations and IGAs, operational specificity of the mechanisms of information capture, management and exchange by firms and between countries, insights as to the application of FATCA and the IGAs within new BRIC and European country chapters.

If you are interested in discussing the Master or Doctorate degree in the areas of financial services or international taxation, please contact me https://profwilliambyrnes.com/online-tax-degree/

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Senate Subcommittee Hearing and Report on Offshore Tax Evasion: Credit Suisse Investigation

Posted by William Byrnes on February 26, 2014


On March 1st, 8th and 15th I have scheduled a series of FATCA articles to post.  Please “email subscribe” to this blog on the left menu if you want to read the interesting FATCA updates, and other tax related news.

Today’s Hearing 

I have just finished listening to today’s live 7 plus hour > hearing < (Wednesday, February 26) of the US Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on tax evasion associated with unreported bank accounts of Americans held at Credit Suisse.  Below I paraphrase and excerpt the most intriguing statements.

Based upon its two-year investigation, the Subcommittee reported that Credit Suisse opened Swiss accounts for over 22,000 U.S. customers with assets that, at their peak, totaled roughly $10 billion to $12 billion.  The Subcommittee stated that the vast majority of these accounts were hidden from U.S. authorities and that U.S. law enforcement officials have been slow to collect the unpaid taxes or hold accountable the tax evaders and bank involved.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the subcommittee chairman said “The Credit Suisse case study shows how a Swiss bank aided and abetted U.S. tax evasion, not only from behind a veil of secrecy in Switzerland, but also on U.S. soil by sending Swiss bankers here to open hidden accounts. In response, the Department of Justice has failed to use the U.S. legal tools that won the UBS case and has instead used treaty requests for U.S. client names, relying on Swiss courts with predictably poor results. It’s time to ramp up the collection of taxes due from tax evaders on the billions of dollars hidden offshore.”

“For too long, international financial institutions like Credit Suisse have profited from their offshore tax haven schemes while depriving the U.S. economy of billions of dollars in tax revenues by facilitating U.S. tax evasion,” said Senator John McCain, ranking member of the subcommittee. “As federal regulators begin to crack down on these banks’ illicit practices, it is imperative that they use every legal tool at their disposal to hold these banks fully accountable for willfully deceiving the U.S. government and seek penalties that will deter similar misconduct in the future.”

Amount Recovered Thus Far from Non-Compliant Taxpayers 

According to the GAO Reports and the Subcommittee report, the 2008, 2011, and the ongoing 2012 offshore voluntary disclosure initiative (OVDI) have led to 43,000 taxpayers paying back taxes, interest and penalties totaling $6 billion to date, with more expected.  However, the vast majority of this recovered money is not tax revenue but instead results from the FBAR penalties assessed for not reporting a foreign account.  The Taxpayer Advocate found that for noncompliant taxpayers with small accounts, the FBAR and tax penalties reached nearly 600% of the actual tax due!  The median offshore penalty was about 381% of the additional tax assessed for taxpayers with median-sized account balances.

Have These Efforts Substantially Increased Taxpayer Compliance?

The Taxpayer Advocate, replying on State Department statistics,  cited that 7.6 million U.S. citizens reside abroad and many more U.S. residents have FBAR filing requirements, yet the IRS received only 807,040 FBAR submissions as recently as 2012.  The Taxpayer Advocate noted that in Mexico alone, more than one million U.S. citizens reside, and many Mexican citizens reside in the U.S. (and thus are required to file a FBAR for any Mexican accounts of $10,000 or greater).

Thus, at a current rate well below 10% compliance (because nonresident aliens in the US must file a FBAR on their non-US accounts of $10,000 and over), it appears that all the additional enforcement is producing similar results of the War on Drugs.  This is not to say that obtaining a highly level of compliance with the tax law , like compliance with the drug laws and DUI laws, is not a public good in itself – it indeed is a public good that the public has chosen, via Congress (and its investigatory hearings), for resource allocation. But like the War on Drugs, there are many potential strategies to bring about compliance, about which pundits such as law enforcement officials, social libertarians, the medical profession, and all their paid lobbyists, debate.

Credit Suisse Statement to Subcommittee:

Credit Suisse is a global financial services company with operations in more than 50 countries and over 45,000 employees including approximately 9,000 U.S. employees in 19 U.S. locations. In the United States, Credit Suisse is a Financial Holding Company regulated by the Federal Reserve. The Bank has a New York branch, which is supervised by the New York Department of Financial Services, and we have three regulated U.S. broker/dealer subsidiaries. Our primary U.S. broker/dealer has been designated a Systemically Important Financial Institution under the Dodd-Frank law. We have a substantial business presence here in the United States.

Credit Suisse Exit of U.S. Relationships

Following our decision to prohibit former U.S. clients of UBS from transferring their assets to Credit Suisse, in August 2008, Credit Suisse promptly turned to addressing issues highlighted by the UBS situation. In October 2008, Credit Suisse decided to allow relationships with non-U.S. entities that had U.S. beneficial owners only if they demonstrated U.S. tax compliance. We hired a leading Swiss law firm to review the tax status of U.S. clients that wanted to remain. By the end of the first year of review, all but 135 relationships with assets over $10,000 had been reviewed and resolved.

In April 2009, we extended our review to U.S. resident clients. Credit Suisse transferred virtually all U.S. resident accounts to one of the Bank’s U.S.-registered affiliates, or terminated the relationships. Credit Suisse simply shut down those client relationships that were unwilling to move or that did not meet the $1 million requirement for transfer to the Bank’s U.S.-regulated affiliates. By the end of the first full year of review, 2010, we had reviewed and resolved more than 85% of U.S.-resident relationships with assets over $10,000.

To ensure that the review was comprehensive, we also manually searched for accounts that, although not identified in our systems as U.S.-linked, could possibly have some U.S. connection – for example, a U.S. phone number or address in the paper client file, or a notation of a U.S. birthplace on a foreign passport. Credit Suisse also reviewed the private banking activities of its subsidiaries, including Clariden Leu, which was a nearly wholly owned Credit Suisse subsidiary between 2007 and 2012. Clariden Leu’s review and exit projects paralleled the projects at Credit Suisse.

Credit Suisse also engaged one of the Big Four accounting firms to conduct its own review to assess whether the Bank had effectively identified the account relationships with U.S. links. This firm carefully analyzed the Bank’s efforts – with an intense line-by-line analysis of account information – and concluded to an extremely high level of confidence that Credit Suisse had identified the complete population of U.S. account relationships. The results of this substantial effort have been presented to the Subcommittee staff.

Subcommittee “Undeclared Accounts” Methodologies Unreliable

Credit Suisse repeatedly discussed with the Subcommittee staff the fact that it is impossible for us to know the tax status of assets previously held by U.S. clients if those clients did not disclose that information to the Bank. Unfortunately, the Subcommittee has chosen to speculate based on a number of “methodologies,” each of which is problematic and generates results that are, at best, unreliable. The Subcommittee’s need to reference three conflicting “methodologies” is an implicit recognition that accurate estimates of unreported U.S. client assets previously held at Credit Suisse cannot be made based on the actual information available to the Bank and to the Subcommittee.

8,300 Accounts under $10,000 FBAR Reporting Requirement

In any event, the Subcommittee assumes that every U.S. client account held abroad was undeclared. As discussed below, that is a demonstrably inappropriate assumption. Moreover, U.S. Treasury Department regulations required U.S. citizens to report foreign accounts only if the balance exceeded $10,000 at some point during the year. While the Subcommittee staff has mentioned 22,000 accounts, more than 8,300 had balances below $10,000 as of December 31, 2008.

6,400 Accounts for US Expats Residing in Switzerland

Troublingly, these estimates also lump in categories of accounts where there is every reason to believe that the client had a valid reason for holding a Swiss account. For example, the Subcommittee’s estimates of “undeclared” accounts include approximately 6,400 accounts held by all U.S. expats who would ordinarily have a need for some form of local banking services outside of the U.S. Again, it should not be ignored that most expats resided in Switzerland, and therefore had a particularly valid reason for maintaining a bank near their homes.

Finally, each of the three “methodologies” that the Subcommittee staff has raised is problematic for different reasons:

First Methodology No Factual Basis

The first method wrongly suggests that the number of accounts closed during the Bank’s

“Exit Projects” may be a proxy for “undeclared” accounts. The Bank’s “Exit Projects” revealed that U.S. clients left the Bank for various reasons. For example, Credit Suisse decided to simply shut down around 11,000 U.S. resident accounts when the Bank decided to stop having Swiss-based private bankers service U.S. residents and because those clients’ balances did not meet the $1 million requirement for transfer to the U.S. regulated affiliates. Those clients never had the opportunity to demonstrate tax compliance because their accounts were simply terminated. There is no basis factually to assume that all of these clients were not tax compliant.

Second Methodology Unsupported

The second method, the “UBS method,” is simply unsupported. This method proposes to estimate accounts by considering all accounts without Forms W-9 to be “undeclared” U.S. accounts. The absence of a Form W-9 alone in no way supports an inference that a client failed to report the account to the IRS, or that the Bank was aware that the client failed to do so. The Qualified Intermediary Agreement with the IRS required the preparation of a Form W-9 only if the client maintained U.S. securities. If the client did not maintain U.S. securities, a Form W-9 was not required. These are the IRS’s rules. Because this method does not consider whether the client maintained U.S. securities, it is inaccurate to assume that the account was maintained to evade U.S. taxes.

Third Methodology Inconclusive

Nor is the third method conclusive. The so-called “DOJ Estimate” recounts a figure of $4 billion stated in an indictment of certain Bank relationship managers. Because the grand jury’s proceedings are secret, neither we nor the Subcommittee have any basis to assess the grand jury’s methodologies.

Credit Suisse Assets Under Management

As to Assets under Management (AuM), it should be noted that our exit projects established that an approximate amount of $5 billion of AuM was reviewed and verified for tax compliance over the years. This number includes AuM transferred to our U.S.-registered entities or closed after tax compliance was established. In addition, approximately $2.25 billion AuM lost its U.S. nexus over the years. Finally, of the accounts that were closed over the years we simply have no basis to assume that all of them were undeclared.

It was discussed between the Senators and the representatives of Credit Suisse that the actual amount of AUM compared to Credit Suisse’s AuM was miniscule, and that such AuM contributed less than 1% to Credit Suisse’s profits.  However, Senator John McCain, the minority ranking member, told the Credit Suisse representatives that, while small in the context of the bank, amounts of billions and the profits made therefrom, are large amounts to a American taxpayer if made aware of such conduct.  While listening to the Senator’s assessment (and agreeing), I wondered why in contrast hundreds of billions of annual deficits up to nearly a trillion deficit, and 15, 17, perhaps 20 trillion of national debt don’t seem to phase the same taxpayer referred to?

Internal Investigation

Nor did we turn a blind eye to the past. On the contrary, we invested enormous efforts to achieve as much clarity as possible about whether, and to what extent, Credit Suisse employees had violated U.S. laws or helped clients do so. Credit Suisse asked external counsel to investigate any instances of past improper conduct fully. That investigation was broad and deep.

The U.S. law firm King & Spalding and the Swiss law firm Schellenberg Wittmer led the investigation, with help from a major accounting firm. The investigation reviewed all aspects of the Bank’s Swiss-based private banking business with U.S. customers. It involved more than 100 interviews of Credit Suisse and Clariden Leu personnel, from line-level private bankers to senior leaders of the Bank. The investigation reviewed the conduct of bankers across the Swiss private bank who had a number of U.S. clients or traveled to the United States.

The investigation identified evidence of violations of Bank policy centered on a small group of Swiss-based private bankers. That conduct centered on a group of private bankers within a desk of 15 to 20 private bankers at any given time who were focused on larger accounts of U.S. residents. Most of the improper activity was focused on some private bankers who traveled to the United States once or twice a year; otherwise, the investigation found only scattered evidence of improper conduct.

The investigation did not find any evidence that senior executives of Credit Suisse knew these bankers were apparently helping U.S. customers hide income and assets. To the contrary, the evidence showed that some Swiss-based private bankers went to great lengths to disguise their bad conduct from Credit Suisse executive management.

Cooperation with U.S. Authorities

Credit Suisse has consistently cooperated with the investigations led by the Department of Justice, the SEC, and this Subcommittee, going to the greatest extent permissible by Swiss law to provide information to investigating U.S. authorities.

Since early 2011, Credit Suisse has produced hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, including translations of foreign-language documents. Our representatives have met with the Department of Justice to help them understand the information we provided and to describe the findings of our internal investigation and the Bank’s various compliance efforts.

Credit Suisse has also provided briefings to officials from the U.S. government, including the SEC and this Subcommittee. That includes more than 100 hours briefing the Subcommittee staff on details of the private banking business and the internal investigation and thousands more hours answering written questions from Subcommittee staff. Specifically, Credit Suisse produced over 580,000 pages of documents, provided 11 detailed briefings to the Subcommittee staff in all-day, or multi-day, sessions, provided 12 substantive written submissions, and made 17 witnesses available from both the United States and Switzerland, including the Bank’s General Counsel, co-heads of the Private Bank and Wealth Management Division, and the CEO.

Credit Suisse Agrees to Pay $196 Million and Admits Wrongdoing in Providing Unregistered Services to U.S. Clients

In the February 21, 2014 Press Release by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) “Credit Suisse Agrees to Pay $196 Million and Admits Wrongdoing in Providing Unregistered Services to U.S. Clients“, Credit Suisse agreed to pay $196 million and admit wrongdoing to settle the SEC’s charges.  According to the SEC’s order instituting settled administrative proceedings, Credit Suisse provided cross-border securities services to thousands of U.S. clients and collected fees totaling approximately $82 million without adhering to the registration provisions of the federal securities laws.  Credit Suisse relationship managers traveled to the U.S. to solicit clients, provide investment advice, and induce securities transactions.  These relationship managers were not registered to provide brokerage or advisory services, nor were they affiliated with a registered entity.  The relationship managers also communicated with clients in the U.S. through overseas e-mails and phone calls.

Report Offshore Tax Evasion: The Effort to Collect Unpaid Taxes on Billions in Hidden Offshore Accounts

The 175-page bipartisan staff report released Tuesday February 25 outlines how Credit Suisse engaged in similar conduct from at least 2001 to 2008, sending Swiss bankers into the United States to recruit U.S. customers, opening Swiss accounts that were not disclosed to U.S. authorities, including accounts opened in the name of offshore shell entities, and servicing Swiss accounts here in the United States without leaving a paper trail.

Senator Carl Levin Statement

In his statement summary of the investigation of Credit Suisse, Senator Levin stated:

“…A bipartisan report we are releasing today cites chapter and verse of the failure to collect the taxes owed and to hold accountable the U.S. persons who evaded their tax obligations and the tax haven banks who helped them.  To lay bare the problems, our report uses a detailed case study involving Credit Suisse.

“What we found was that Credit Suisse had been holding back about how bad the problem was at the bank.  At its peak, in Switzerland, Credit Suisse had over 22,000 U.S. customers with accounts containing more than 12 billion Swiss francs, which translates into $10 to $12 billion U.S. dollars.  Nearly 1,500 accounts were opened in the name of offshore shell companies to hide U.S. ownership.  Another nearly 2,000 were opened at Clariden Leu, Credit Suisse’s own little private bank.  Almost 10,000 were serviced by a special Credit Suisse branch at the Zurich airport which enabled clients to fly in to do their banking without leaving airport grounds.

“Although Credit Suisse policy was to concentrate its U.S. client accounts in Switzerland at a Swiss desk called SALN, which had about 15 bankers trained in U.S. regulatory and tax requirements, that policy was largely ignored.  In 2008, over 1,800 bankers spread throughout the bank in Switzerland handled one or more U.S. accounts.  One U.S. client told the Subcommittee about visiting the bank’s main offices in Zurich.  The client was ushered into a remotely controlled elevator with no floor buttons, and escorted to a bare room with white walls, all dramatizing the bank’s focus on secrecy.  The client opened an account after being told the bank did not require completion of the W-9; without that form, the account was not reported to U.S. authorities.  In later visits, the client was offered cash withdrawals and credit cards to draw from the Swiss account while in the United States, and the client always signed a form ordering that the Credit Suisse account statements be immediately shredded.

“But the Swiss bankers didn’t stay in Switzerland.  Like UBS, Credit Suisse bankers travelled across the United States.  Ten SALN bankers alone took more than 170 U.S. trips from 2001 to 2008, to look for new clients and service existing accounts.  Credit Suisse arranged for them to host tables at the annual Swiss Ball in New York and to host golf tournaments in Florida to prospect for wealthy clients.  Some also met with as many as 30 to 40 existing U.S. clients in a single trip to attend to their banking needs. 

“We learned of one Swiss banker who met with a U.S. client over breakfast at a U.S. luxury hotel, and slipped the client bank account statements in between the pages of a Sports Illustrated magazine.  Although none of the Swiss bankers were registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, many provided broker-dealer and investment advisory services for U.S. clients, resulting in the > $196 million fine that Credit Suisse < paid last week.  Some Swiss bankers also advised U.S. clients on how to structure cash transactions to avoid filing reports of cash transactions over $10,000 as required by U.S. law.  Other Swiss bankers helped U.S. clients set up offshore shell corporations to hold their accounts and hide the ownership trail.  Some bankers lied on visa applications when they entered the United States, saying the purpose of their visit was tourism when in fact it was business.

“Once UBS’s misconduct was exposed, Credit Suisse initiated a series of so-called Exit Projects to close its U.S. client accounts in Switzerland.  Those projects took five years, until 2013, to complete.  In the end, the bank verified accounts for about 3,500 out of the 22,000 U.S. clients as compliant with U.S. tax law, meaning they were disclosed to the IRS.  The bank closed accounts for the other 18,900 U.S. customers.  It is clear that the vast majority – up to 95 percent – were undeclared, meaning hidden from Uncle Sam. 

“So where are we now?  Unlike UBS, U.S. enforcement action against Credit Suisse has stalled, even though the bank got a target letter three years ago in 2011.  While seven of its bankers were indicted by U.S. prosecutors in 2011, none has stood trial and none has been the subject of a U.S. extradition request.  Less than a handful of U.S. taxpayers with Credit Suisse accounts have been indicted.

“As you can see on this chart, of the 22,000 U.S. clients with Swiss accounts at Credit Suisse, the total number of accounts with U.S. names disclosed by the Swiss to the United States over five years hits a grand total of 238.  That’s 238 out of 22,000, about one percent.   Other Swiss banks with thousands of U.S. clients in Switzerland have, as far as we know, disclosed no names at all.

“By restricting itself to the treaty process, DOJ essentially handed over control of U.S. information requests to Swiss regulators and Swiss courts that rule on how they will be handled and have regularly elevated bank secrecy over bank disclosures.

“But the Swiss roadblocks didn’t end there.  In 2009, right after the UBS battle, Switzerland agreed to amend the U.S.-Swiss tax treaty to replace its highly restrictive “tax fraud” standard with the somewhat less restrictive “relevance” standard.  But the Swiss also insisted that the less restrictive disclosure standard be used only for information requests regarding Swiss accounts in existence after the amendments were signed on September 23, 2009.  U.S. negotiators went along, and produced a new treaty standard that may be useful prospectively, but can’t be used for potentially tens of thousands of Swiss accounts employed for U.S. tax evasion before 2009.  The end result is that the tax evaders and the Swiss banks who helped them may get away with wrongdoing.

“Here’s another rigged game.  The U.S.-Swiss extradition treaty is supposed to enable each country to obtain the transfer of a criminal defendant from the other country.  But that treaty has an exception giving the Swiss the discretion to deny an extradition request for a person accused of a tax offense.  DOJ has indicted 38 Swiss banking and other professionals for aiding and abetting U.S. tax evasion.  The indictment of the seven Credit Suisse bankers is already three years old.  But 34 of those 38 defendants have yet to stand trial.  Instead, most are openly residing in Switzerland.  One Swiss banker who left Switzerland to vacation in Italy was recently arrested and is here and set to stand trial in October, but he’s the exception.  It is bad enough that the Swiss can deny extradition for persons aiding and abetting U.S. tax evasion; it is inexplicable that the United States hasn’t even made extradition requests.”

According to the Subcommittee report, after the UBS scandal broke, Credit Suisse began a series of Exit Projects, and took five years to close Swiss accounts held by 18,900 U.S. clients, leaving just 3,500 U.S. customers still with the bank. Credit Suisse also conducted an internal investigation, but produced no report and identified no leadership failures that allowed the bank to become involved in tax evasion. Despite, in 2011, indictment of seven of its bankers and a DOJ letter notifying the bank that it was itself an investigation target, Credit Suisse has not been held legally accountable by DOJ, and none of its bankers has stood trial.

Despite earlier testimony pledging to use important U.S. legal tools such as grand jury subpoenas and John Doe summonses to obtain the names of U.S. tax evaders, the investigation found that DOJ had failed to use them, choosing instead to file treaty requests with little success. In the past five years, DOJ has not sought to enforce a single grand jury subpoena against a Swiss bank, has not assisted in the filing of a single John Doe summons to obtain client names or account information in Switzerland, and has prosecuted only one Swiss bank, Wegelin &Co., despite more than a dozen under investigation for facilitating U.S. tax evasion. In addition, over the past five years, DOJ has obtained information, including U.S. client names, for only 238 undeclared Swiss accounts out of the tens of thousands opened offshore.

Subcommittee Findings

The Subcommittee investigation reaches several findings of fact:

(1)      Bank Practices that Facilitated U.S. Tax Evasion. From at least 2001 to 2008, Credit Suisse employed banking practices that facilitated tax evasion by U.S. customers, including by opening undeclared Swiss accounts for individuals, opening accounts in the name of offshore shell entities to mask their U.S. ownership, and sending Swiss bankers to the United States to recruit new U.S. customers and service existing Swiss accounts without creating paper trails.  At its peak, Credit Suisse had over 22,000 U.S. customers with Swiss accounts containing assets that exceeded 12 billion Swiss francs.

(2)      Inadequate Bank Response. Credit Suisse’s efforts to close undeclared Swiss accounts opened by U.S. customers took more than five years, failed to identify how many were undeclared accounts hidden from U.S. authorities, and fell short of identifying any leadership failures or lessons learned from its legally-suspect U.S. cross border business.

(3)      Lax U.S. Enforcement. Despite the passage of five years, U.S. law enforcement has failed to prosecute more than a dozen Swiss banks that facilitated U.S. tax evasion, failed to take legal action against thousands of U.S. persons whose names and hidden Swiss accounts were disclosed by UBS, and failed to utilize available U.S. legal means to obtain the names of tens of thousands of additional U.S. persons whose identities are still being concealed by the Swiss.

(4)      Swiss Secrecy. Since 2008, Swiss officials have worked to preserve Swiss bank secrecy by intervening in U.S. criminal investigations to restrict document production by Swiss banks, pressuring the United States to construct a program for issuing non-prosecution agreements to hundreds of Swiss banks while excusing those banks from disclosing U.S. client names, enacting legislation creating new barriers to U.S. treaty requests seeking U.S. client names, and managing to limit the actual disclosure of U.S. client names to only a few hundred names over five years, despite the tens of thousands of undeclared Swiss accounts opened by U.S. clients evading U.S. taxes.

Subcommittee Recommendations:

(1)      Improve Prosecution of Tax Haven Banks and Hidden Offshore Account Holders. To ensure accountability, deter misconduct, and collect tax revenues, the Department of Justice should use available U.S. legal means, including enforcing grand jury subpoenas and John Doe summons in U.S. courts, to obtain the names of U.S. taxpayers with undeclared accounts at tax haven banks. DOJ should hold accountable tax haven banks that aided and abetted U.S. tax evasion, and take legal action against U.S. taxpayers to collect unpaid taxes on billions of dollars in offshore assets.

(2)      Increase Transparency of Tax Haven Banks That Impede U.S. Tax Enforcement. U.S. regulators should use their existing authority to institute a probationary period of increased reporting requirements for, or to limit the opening of new accounts by, tax haven banks that enter into deferred prosecution agreements, non-prosecution agreements, settlements, or other concluding actions with law enforcement for facilitating U.S. tax evasion, taking into consideration repetitive or cumulative misconduct.

(3)      Streamline John Doe Summons. Congress should amend U.S. tax laws to streamline the use of John Doe summons procedures to uncover the names of taxpayers using offshore accounts and other means to evade U.S. taxes, including by allowing a court to approve more than one John Doe summons related to the same tax investigation.

(4)      Close FATCA Loopholes. To obtain systematic disclosure of undeclared offshore accounts used to evade U.S. taxes, the U.S. Treasury and IRS should close gaping loopholes in FATCA regulations that have no statutory basis, including provisions that allow financial institutions to ignore account information stored on paper, and allow foreign financial institutions to treat offshore shell entities as non-U.S. entities even when beneficially owned and controlled by U.S. persons.

(5)      Ratify Revised Swiss Tax Treaty. The U.S. Senate should promptly ratify the 2009 Protocol to the U.S.-Switzerland tax treaty to take advantage of improved disclosure standards.

What is the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters for Swiss Banks?

The Tax Division of the Department of Justice > released a statement on December 12, 2013 < strongly encouraging Swiss banks wanting to seek non-prosecution agreements to resolve past cross-border criminal tax violations to submit letters of intent by a Dec. 31, 2013 deadline required by the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters (the “Program“).  The Program was announced on Aug. 29, 2013, in a > joint statement < signed by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole and Ambassador Manuel Sager of Switzerland (> See the Swiss government’s explanation of the Program < ).  Switzerland’s Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) has issued a deadline of Monday, December 16, 2013 for a bank to inform it with its intention to apply for the DOJ’s Program.[2]

The DOJ statement described the framework of the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements: every Swiss bank not currently under formal criminal investigation concerning offshore activities will be able to provide the cooperation necessary to resolve potential criminal matters with the DOJ.  Currently, the department is actively investigating the Swiss-based activities of 14 banks.  Those banks, referred to as Category 1 banks in the Program, are expressly excluded from the Program.  Category 1 Banks against which the DoJ has initiated a criminal investigation as of 29 August 2013 (date of program publication).

On November 5, 2013 the Tax Division of the DOJ had released > comments about the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters for Swiss Banks < .

Swiss banks that have committed violations of U.S. tax laws and wished to cooperate and receive a non-prosecution agreement under the Program, known as Category 2 banks, had until Dec. 31, 2013 to submit a letter of intent to join the program, and the category sought.

To be eligible for a non-prosecution agreement, Category 2 banks must meet several requirements, which include agreeing to pay penalties based on the amount held in undeclared U.S. accounts, fully disclosing their cross-border activities, and providing detailed information on an account-by-account basis for accounts in which U.S. taxpayers have a direct or indirect interest.  Providing detailed information regarding other banks that transferred funds into secret accounts or that accepted funds when secret accounts were closed is also a stipulation for eligibility. The Swiss Federal Department of Finance has released a > model order and guidance note < that will allow Swiss banks to cooperate with the DOJ and fulfill the requirements of the Program.

The DOJ’s November comments responded to such issues as: (a) Bank-specific issues and issues concerning individuals, (b) Choosing which category among 2, 3, or 4, (c) Qualifications of independent examiner (attorney or accountant), (d) Content of independent examiner report, (e) Information required under the Program – no aggregate account data, (f) Penalty calculation – permitted reductions, (g) Category 4 banks – retroactive application of FATCA Annex II, paragraph II.A.1, and (h) Civil penalties.

Which of Four Categories To File for Non-Prosecution Under?

Regarding which category to file under, the DOJ replied: “Each eligible Swiss bank should carefully analyze whether it is a category 2, 3 or 4 bank. While it may appear more desirable for a bank to attempt to position itself as a category 3 or 4 bank to receive a non-target letter, no non-target letter will be issued to any bank as to which the Department has information of criminal culpability. If the Department learns of criminal conduct by the bank after a non-target letter has been issued, the bank is not protected from prosecution for that conduct. If the bank has hidden or misrepresented its activities to obtain a non-target letter, it is exposed to increased criminal liability.”

Category 2

Banks against which the DoJ has not initiated a criminal investigation but have reasons to believe that that they have violated US tax law in their dealings with clients are subject to fines of on a flat-rate basis.  Set scale of fine rates (%) applied to the untaxed US assets of the bank in question:

– Existing accounts on 01.08.2008: 20%
– New accounts opened between 01.08.2008 and 28.02.2009: 30%
– New accounts after 28.02.2009: 50%

Category 2 banks must delivery of information on cross-border business with US clients, name and function of the employees and third parties concerned, anonymised data on terminated client relationships including statistics as to where the accounts re-domiciled.

Category 3

Banks have no reason to believe that they have violated US tax law in their dealings with clients and that can have this demonstrated by an independent third party. A category 3 bank must provide to the IRS the data on its total US assets under management and confirmation of an effective compliance programme in force.

Category 4

Banks are a local business in accordance with the FATCA definition.

Independence of Qualified Attorney or Accountant Examiner

Regarding the requirement of the independence of the qualified attorney or accountant examiner, the DOJ stated that the examiner “is not an advocate, agent, or attorney for the bank, nor is he or she an advocate or agent for the government. He or she must provide a neutral, dispassionate analysis of the bank’s activities. Communications with the independent examiner should not be considered confidential or protected by any privilege or immunity.”  The attorney / accountant’s report must be substantive, detailed, and address the requirements set out in the DOJ’s non-prosecution Program.  The DOJ stated that “Banks are required to cooperate fully and “come clean” to obtain the protection that is offered under the Program.”

In the ‘bottom line’ words of the DOJ: “Each eligible Swiss bank should carefully weigh the benefits of coming forward, and the risks of not taking this opportunity to be fully forthcoming. A bank that has engaged in or facilitated U.S. tax-related or monetary transaction crimes has a unique opportunity to resolve its criminal liability under the Program. Those that have criminal exposure but fail to come forward or participate but are not fully forthcoming do so at considerable risk.”

106 Swiss Banks Seek Non-Prosecution from US Justice Department for Past Tax Evasion by Clients

106 Swiss banks (of approximately 300 total) filed the requisite letter of intent to join the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters (the “Program“) by the December 31, 2013 deadline.  Renown attorney Jack Townsend reported on his blog on February 14th provided a list of 49 Swiss banks that had publicly announced the intention to submit the letter of intent, as well as each bank’s category for entry: six announced seeking category 4 status, eight for category 3, thirty-five for category 2.  106 was a large jump from the mid-December report by the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (“SwissInfo”) that only a few had filed for non prosecution with the DOJ’s program (e.g. Migros Bank, Bank COOP, Valiant, Berner Kantonalbank and Vontobel).

See my other articles:

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106 Swiss Banks seek Non-Prosecution Agreements and Non-Target Letter with the DOJ (but twice that, did not…)

Posted by William Byrnes on January 31, 2014


free chapter download here —> http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2457671   Number of Pages in PDF File: 58

On January 25, Kathryn Keneally, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, served as the keynote speaker for the American Bar Association Section of Taxation 2014 Midyear Meeting. to provide agency updates – including on the Switzerland banks non-prosecution agreement program that expired December 31.  

David Voreacos of Bloomberg News reported that Kathryn Keneally, in her keynote remarks, stated that 106 Swiss banks (of approximately 300 total) filed the requisite letter of intent to join the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters (the “Program“) by the December 31, 2013 deadline.  Renown attorney Jack Townsend reported on his blog on December 31st a list of 47 Swiss banks that had publicly announced the intention to submit the letter of intent, as well as each bank’s category for entry: six announced seeking category 4 status, eight for category 3, thirty-three for category 2.  106 is a large jump from the mid-December report by the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (“SwissInfo”) that only a few had filed for non prosecution with the DOJ’s program (e.g. Migros Bank, Bank COOP, Valiant, Berner Kantonalbank and Vontobel). [1]

SwissInfo reported that Migros Bank selected Program Category 2 because “370 of its 825,000 clients, mostly Swiss citizens residing temporarily in the US or clients with dual nationality”, met the criteria of US taxpayer.  Valiant told SwissInfo that “an internal review showed it had never actively sought US clients or visited Americans to drum up business. The bank said less than 0.1% of its clients were American.”   The DOJ reported that in July 2013, Liechtensteinische Landesbank AG, a bank based in Vaduz, Liechtenstein, entered into a non-prosecution agreement and agreed to pay more than $23.8 million stemming from its offshore banking activities, and turned over more than 200 account files of U.S. taxpayers who held undeclared accounts at the bank.

William R. Davis and Lee A. Sheppard of Tax Analysts’ Worldwide Tax Daily reported that “one private practitioner estimated that some 350 banks holding 40,000 accounts have not come in.” (see “ABA Meeting: Keneally Reports Success With Swiss Bank Program”, Jan. 28, 2014, 2014 WTD 18-3.)

Two court orders entered in November 2013 in a New York federal court will further aid the offshore compliance investigations by authorizing the IRS to serve what are known as “John Doe” summonses on five banks to obtain information about possible tax fraud by individuals whose identities are unknown.  The John Doe summonses direct the five banks to produce records identifying U.S. taxpayers holding interests in undisclosed accounts at Zurcher Kantonalbank (ZKB) and its affiliates in Switzerland and at The Bank of N.T. Butterfield & Son Limited (Butterfield) and its affiliates in Switzerland, the Bahamas, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Malta and the United Kingdom.  The summonses also direct the five banks to produce information identifying foreign banks that used ZKB’s and Butterfield’s correspondent accounts at the five banks to service U.S. clients.

Swiss banks Wegelin ceased operations because of the DOJ investigation and its consequent guilty plea.  Bank Frey followed suit because of the DOJ investigation and costs of future compliance with FATCA (its former head of private banking was indicted, and an > attorney in the same indictment pled guilty to conspiracy to commit tax fraud <).  Frey bank, in a November 28, 2013 statement, defended itself: “In October, the former Bank Frey & Co. AG decided to cease its banking activities and to terminate all of its client relationships. Beforehand, the Bank verified the tax compliance of all its US clients, and an external auditor confirmed so. In addition, the Bank examined all of its other clients to determine whether they had any link to the US. Again, an external auditor checked and confirmed these findings. As a result, it was determined that Bank Frey did not have any clients with potential US tax issues.”

What is the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters for Swiss Banks?

The Tax Division of the Department of Justice > released a statement on December 12 < strongly encouraging Swiss banks wanting to seek non-prosecution agreements to resolve past cross-border criminal tax violations to submit letters of intent by a Dec. 31, 2013 deadline required by the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters (the “Program“).  The Program was announced on Aug. 29, 2013, in a > joint statement < signed by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole and Ambassador Manuel Sager of Switzerland (> See the Swiss government’s explanation of the Program < ).  Switzerland’s Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) has issued a deadline of Monday, December 16, 2013 for a bank to inform it with its intention to apply for the DOJ’s Program.[2]

The DOJ statement described the framework of the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements: every Swiss bank not currently under formal criminal investigation concerning offshore activities will be able to provide the cooperation necessary to resolve potential criminal matters with the DOJ.  Currently, the department is actively investigating the Swiss-based activities of 14 banks.  Those banks, referred to as Category 1 banks in the Program, are expressly excluded from the Program.  Category 1 Banks against which the DoJ has initiated a criminal investigation as of 29 August 2013 (date of program publication).

On November 5, 2013 the Tax Division of the DOJ had released > comments about the Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters for Swiss Banks < .

Swiss banks that have committed violations of U.S. tax laws and wished to cooperate and receive a non-prosecution agreement under the Program, known as Category 2 banks, had until Dec. 31, 2013 to submit a letter of intent to join the program, and the category sought. 

To be eligible for a non-prosecution agreement, Category 2 banks must meet several requirements, which include agreeing to pay penalties based on the amount held in undeclared U.S. accounts, fully disclosing their cross-border activities, and providing detailed information on an account-by-account basis for accounts in which U.S. taxpayers have a direct or indirect interest.  Providing detailed information regarding other banks that transferred funds into secret accounts or that accepted funds when secret accounts were closed is also a stipulation for eligibility. The Swiss Federal Department of Finance has released a > model order and guidance note < that will allow Swiss banks to cooperate with the DOJ and fulfill the requirements of the Program.

The DOJ’s November comments responded to such issues as: (a) Bank-specific issues and issues concerning individuals, (b) Choosing which category among 2, 3, or 4, (c) Qualifications of independent examiner (attorney or accountant), (d) Content of independent examiner report, (e) Information required under the Program – no aggregate account data, (f) Penalty calculation – permitted reductions, (g) Category 4 banks – retroactive application of FATCA Annex II, paragraph II.A.1, and (h) Civil penalties.

Regarding which category to file under, the DOJ replied: “Each eligible Swiss bank should carefully analyze whether it is a category 2, 3 or 4 bank. While it may appear more desirable for a bank to attempt to position itself as a category 3 or 4 bank to receive a non-target letter, no non-target letter will be issued to any bank as to which the Department has information of criminal culpability. If the Department learns of criminal conduct by the bank after a non-target letter has been issued, the bank is not protected from prosecution for that conduct. If the bank has hidden or misrepresented its activities to obtain a non-target letter, it is exposed to increased criminal liability.”

Category 2 Banks against which the DoJ has not initiated a criminal investigation but have reasons to believe that that they have violated US tax law in their dealings with clients are subject to fines of on a flat-rate basis.  Set scale of fine rates (%) applied to the untaxed US assets of the bank in question:

– Existing accounts on 01.08.2008: 20%
– New accounts opened between 01.08.2008 and 28.02.2009: 30%
– New accounts after 28.02.2009: 50%

Category 2 banks must delivery of information on cross-border business with US clients, name and function of the employees and third parties concerned, anonymised data on terminated client relationships including statistics as to where the accounts re-domiciled.

Category 3 banks have no reason to believe that they have violated US tax law in their dealings with clients and that can have this demonstrated by an independent third party. A category 3 bank must provide to the IRS the data on its total US assets under management and confirmation of an effective compliance programme in force.

Category 4 banks are a local business in accordance with the FATCA definition.

Regarding the requirement of the independence of the qualified attorney or accountant examiner, the DOJ stated that the examiner “is not an advocate, agent, or attorney for the bank, nor is he or she an advocate or agent for the government. He or she must provide a neutral, dispassionate analysis of the bank’s activities. Communications with the independent examiner should not be considered confidential or protected by any privilege or immunity.”  The attorney / accountant’s report must be substantive, detailed, and address the requirements set out in the DOJ’s non-prosecution Program.  The DOJ stated that “Banks are required to cooperate fully and “come clean” to obtain the protection that is offered under the Program.”

In the ‘bottom line’ words of the DOJ: “Each eligible Swiss bank should carefully weigh the benefits of coming forward, and the risks of not taking this opportunity to be fully forthcoming. A bank that has engaged in or facilitated U.S. tax-related or monetary transaction crimes has a unique opportunity to resolve its criminal liability under the Program. Those that have criminal exposure but fail to come forward or participate but are not fully forthcoming do so at considerable risk.”

[1] See Mathew Allen, US tax deal could prove deadly for small banks, SwissInfo, December 10, 2013, available at http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics/US_tax_deal_could_prove_deadly_for_small_banks.html?cid=37506872

[2] See Supermarket banks sign up to US tax probe, SwissInfo, December 11, 2013, available at http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/business/Supermarket_banks_sign_up_to_US_tax_probe.html?cid=37516028 (accessed December 12, 2013).

FATCA Compliance Program and Manual

book coverFifty contributing authors from the professional and financial industry provide 600 pages of expert analysis within the LexisNexis® Guide to FATCA Compliance (2nd Edition): many perspectives – one voice crafted by the primary author William Byrnes.

The LexisNexis® Guide to FATCA Compliance (2nd Edition) comprises 34 Chapters grouped in three parts: compliance program (Chapters 1–4), analysis of FATCA regulations (Chapters 5–16) and analysis of FATCA’s application for certain trading partners of the U.S. (Chapters 17–34), including intergovernmental agreements as well as the OECD’s TRACE initiative for global automatic information exchange protocols and systems. The 34 chapters include many practical examples to assist a compliance officer contextualize the regulations, IGA provisions, and national rules enacted pursuant to an IGA.  Chapters include by example an in-depth analysis of the categorization of trusts pursuant to the Regulations and IGAs, operational specificity of the mechanisms of information capture, management and exchange by firms and between countries, insights as to the application of FATCA and the IGAs within new BRIC and European country chapters.

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The IRS Median Offshore Penalty 580% of Tax Due For Those Who Make Honest Mistakes

Posted by William Byrnes on January 16, 2014


Published via the IRS Newswire (IR-2014-3) and on the Taxpayer Advocate website of the IRS on January 9, 2014, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson released her 2013 annual report to Congress.  The Taxpayer Advocate, replying on State Department statistics,  cited that “7.6 million U.S. citizens reside abroad and many more U.S. residents have FBAR filing requirements, the IRS received only 807,040 FBAR submissions in 2012.”{1}  The Taxpayer Advocate noted that “more than one million U.S. citizens reside in Mexico and many Mexican citizens reside in the U.S.”  The Report pointed out that most persons that worked in Mexico had to pay into a government mandated retirement account (known as a AFORES), and that this retirement account may be reportable to the IRS as a foreign trust.

Regarding individual international tax compliance initiatives, the IRS Newswire reported that “Analyzing results from the IRS’s 2009 OVD program, the Advocate found the median offshore penalty was about 381% of the additional tax assessed for taxpayers with median-sized account balances, and 580% of the tax assessed for taxpayers with the smallest account balances (i.e., the bottom 10%, with an average $44,855 account balance).  Taxpayers who “opted out” of the OVD program and agreed to subject themselves to audits fared better but still faced penalties of nearly 70% of the tax and interest.”

The Report stated: “Since 2009, the IRS has generally required those who failed to report offshore income and file one or more related information returns (e.g., the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR)) to enter into successively more punitive offshore voluntary disclosure (OVD) programs.  … The programs were punitive, charging average penalties of more than double the unpaid tax and interest associated with the unreported accounts. … On average, the IRS assessed penalties of nearly 70% of the unpaid tax and interest in the audits of those who opted out.”  The FBAR penalty of 50% of the account balance, for up to six years of non-compliance, equals a potential maximum FBAR penalty of 300% of the account itself, without regard to the actual tax due, interest thereupon, and tax penalties.

The finding that small account holding benign taxpayers paid penalties of nearly 600% of the actual tax due appears to be a miscarriage of the intent of policy makers.  This situation has also led the Taxpayer Advocate to conclude that benign actors, in particular those with small non-reported accounts, made either soft disclosures or prospectively began to comply “… without subjecting themselves to the lengthy and seemingly-unfair OVD process.”

Regarding the 2012 IRS Streamlined OVD program, the taxpayer Advocate found that as of September 2013 2,990 taxpayers had submitted returns reporting an additional $3.8 million in taxes.

{1} Report Volume 1, Page 229.

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IRS Proposed FATCA Guidance Expands Offshore Compliance Initiatives

Posted by William Byrnes on September 18, 2010


The IRS released proposals for FATCA guidance on August 27, 2010, in Notice 2010-60.  The notice outlines the shape of the regulations and raises grave concerns for a wide swath of transactions that have an offshore component— from foreign investments to captives and beyond.

Today’s analysis by our Experts William Byrnes and Robert Bloink is located at AdvisorFX Journal IRS Proposed FATCA Guidance Expands Offshore Compliance Initiatives.

After reading the analysis, we invite your questions and comments by posting them below, or by calling the Panel of Experts.

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Certified International Tax Analyst

Posted by William Byrnes on May 14, 2010


Professional Designation: American Academy of Financial Management

Exam preparation: International Tax Planning & Risk Management course

Topics: Treaty Structures, Transfer Pricing, Risk Score Cards, Offshore Strategies and Compliance amongst others – taught via case studies

Delivery: 40 hours of live lecture and case studies – audio headsets for web conferencing

Start: May 24 (Monday) – end August 13 (Friday)

When: New York 11am – 12:30 pm (Eastern Time)

Recordings: all lectures are made available within 1 hour on-demand

Contact: Prof. William Byrnes, Associate Dean – wbyrnes@tjsl.edu   +1 (619) 297-9700 x 6955

Materials: tuition includes full Westlaw, Lexis, CCH, IBFD, Checkpoint, Orbitax and 20 other professional databases

Accreditation: applies toward the Legum Magister (LL.M.), Juris Scientiae Magister (J.S.M),  Scientiae Juridicae  Doctor (JSD) of Thomas Jefferson School of Law (San Diego)

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Caribbean Historical Anecdotes of its Financial Centers

Posted by William Byrnes on September 26, 2009


I continue in my historical anecdotes leading back up to the subject of cross-border tax (financial) information exchange and cross-border tax collection.  This week, we start with the United Nations Declaration Regarding Non-Self Governing Territories, which is in the UN Charter, then turn the a few UK Reports about her territories, and the UN and OECS Human Development Indices.

Marshall Langer will be addressing these much more in-depthly during his lectures in October and November.

Chapter XI

Declaration Regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories

Article 73 

Members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present Charter, the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories, and, to this end:

     a. to ensure, with due respect for the culture of the peoples concerned, their political, economic, social, and educational advancement, their just treatment, and their protection against abuses;

     b. to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement;

     c. to further international peace and security;

      d. to promote constructive measures of development, to encourage research, and to co-operate with one another and, when and where appropriate, with specialized international bodies with a view to the practical achievement of the social, economic, and scientific purposes set forth in this Article; and

     e. to transmit regularly to the Secretary- General for information purposes, subject to such limitation as security and constitutional considerations may require, statistical and other information of a technical nature relating to economic, social, and educational conditions in the territories for which they are respectively responsible other than those territories to which Chapters XII and XIII apply.

 Article 74 

Members of the United Nations also agree that their policy in respect of the territories to which this Chapter applies, no less than in respect of their metropolitan areas, must be based on the general principle of good-neighbourliness, due account being taken of the interests and well-being of the rest of the world, in social, economic, and commercial matters.

 1999 Partnership For Progress And Prosperity: Britain And Her Overseas Territories 

In 1999, Robin Cook presented to Parliament a White Paper Partnership for Progress and Prosperity: Britain and the Overseas Territories (the “White Paper”).  The White Paper’s primary conclusion was that the Overseas Territories had successfully diversified their economies through developing global market positions in the offshore financial services industry but that the Overseas Territories required reputation maintenance through regulatory enhancement in order to maintain their global market position within this industry.  The White Paper noted that the Caribbean Overseas Territories were potentially susceptible to money laundering and fraud because of their proximity to drug producing and consuming countries, inadequate regulation and strict confidentiality rules. 

 Also, the White Paper proposed that Britain grant full citizenship, i.e. with right of abode, to the Overseas Territories citizens.  But this right of citizenship was not in exchange for implementing the more extensive regulatory regimes in alignment with the OECD Report.  In 2002, the UK enacted the British Overseas Territories Bill[1] in order to fulfil the Government’s commitment, announced in the White Paper, to extend full British citizenship to those who were British Dependent Territories citizens. 

Free Movement of Persons 

Note that the nationals of the US, Netherlands, French, Portugal and Spanish territories have full parent State nationality with rights of abode.  The non-colony status jurisdictions charged further discriminatory treatment, that they did not have the same rights of free movement and abode as the colonial nationals. 

 In its Report, the OECD members targeted trade in capital and services with the stick of sanctions, but did not offer a carrot, much less a lifeline, to the independent micro-economies.  Some Island states’ pundits allege that the OECD drive against tax competition is a geo-political move for re-(economic) colonization.  These commentators propose that the inevitable declining human development impact of the OECD’s drive against tax competition will be a brain drain to the OECD countries via legal and illegal immigration.     

The United Nations Human Development Report for 2009, to be released within a few weeks in October, will address the international issue of the movement of persons. 

The OECS Human Development Report 2002 

Because the UN Human Development Annual Report does not include all the Caribbean Islands, such as the non self-governing former colonies, the OECS Human Development Report is critical for the quantitative measuring and qualitative analysis of social and economic indicators for Eastern Caribbean territories, and to then be able to contrast these to other UN members captured by the UN Report.

It should be noted that the OECS Report noted that the Caribbean financial centers held approximately US$2 trillion in assets from international financial center activities.  The OECS stated that these international financial services contributed foreign exchange to its members’ economies, revenue to its governments, and that the sector created employment while developing human resources and contributing to the growth of technology.  The OECS concluded that the most important impact to the economies from international financial services was economic diversification.[2] 

1990 Gallagher Report 

In 1989, HMG commissioned the Gallagher Report (Survey of Offshore Finance Sectors of the Caribbean Dependent Territories) with the intent to review whether its territories’ offshore financial services sectors regulations met international standards.  Overall, the Gallagher Report presented proposals to extend the range and scope of offshore financial services in the COTs through the introduction of new measures designed to improve the regulatory framework especially with relation to banks, trusts, insurance and company management.  The Gallagher Report made specific recommendations to several jurisdictions.

By example, with regard to the British Virgin Islands, the Gallagher Report presented proposals to extend the range and scope of offshore financial services through the introduction of new measures designed to improve the regulatory framework as it relates especially to banks, trusts, insurance and company management.  Following the Gallagher Report’s proposals, the BVI government revised in 1990 the 1984 IBC Act, enacted a modern Banks & Trust Companies Act to replace the 1972 legislation; and passed the Company Management Act requiring companies providing registration and managerial services to be licensed.  In 1993, BVI enacted a Trustee (Amendment) Act in order to modernise the 1961 Trust Ordinance and the following year passed the 1994 Insurance Act.

With regard to Anguilla, Gallagher’s Report criticised the lack of up-to-date legislation, inadequate supervision of its financial sectors, and a confidentiality statute that encouraged “the type of business best avoided”.  Gallagher’s Report recommended the enactment of three draft laws, as well as the repeal of the Confidential Relationships Ordinance 1981.[3]  Following Gallagher’s Report, in 1992 the British Government aid agency engaged the consultancy firm of Mokoro to advise the Government of Anguilla on its economic strategy for the 21st century.  The Mokoro Report concluded that the development of additional economic activity in Anguilla principally required the development of the financial sector.  The 1993 Report stated that the financial sector’s socio-economic impact would be: 

  • Substantial additional government revenue.
  • Sizeable increase in the contribution of professional services to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
  • Range of new employment opportunities for young people.
  • Increase in professional trading.
  • Inward migration of Anguillans living overseas.
  • Increase in the number of visitors and a decrease in their seasonability.

As a result of the Report, Anguilla received a three-year 10.5 million English pound grant from the Minister for Overseas Development to research and to develop a Country Policy Plan.  In 1994, Anguilla updated its international financial center through enacting a package of twelve statutes.

Please contact me for further information or research that you would like to share on these topics at http://www.llmprogram.org.


[1] Bill 40 of 2001-2002 was enacted to fulfil the Government’s commitment, announced in March 1999 in its White Paper, to extend full British citizenship to those who were British Dependent Territories citizens.

[2] 2002 OECS Report p.23.

[3] The Confidential Relationships Ordinance, 1981, made it illegal to give other Governments information, including information regarding tax offences.

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Tax Information Exchange (TIEA): an Opportunity for Latin America and Switzerland to Clawback the Capital Flight to America?

Posted by William Byrnes on September 3, 2009


Tax Information Exchange (TIEA): an Opportunity for Latin American to Clawback Its Capital Flight Back from America?  Perhaps even Switzerland?

This blogticle is a short note regarding the potential risk management exposure of US financial institutions’ exposure to a UBS style strategy being employed by foreign revenue departments, such as that of Brazil, and Switzerland.  Of course, such foreign government strategies can only be productive if US financial institutions are the recipient of substantial funds that are unreported by foreign nationals to their respective national revenue departments and national reserve banks, constituting tax and currency/exchange control violations in many foreign countries. 

The important issue of Cross Border Assistance with Tax Collection takes on more relevance when foreign governments begin seeking such assistance from the USA Treasury in collecting and levying against the hundred thousand plus properties purchased with unreported funds, and whose asset value may not have been declared to foreign tax authorities where such reporting is required in either the past, or the current, tax years.  

In the 15 week online International Tax courses starting September 14, we will be undertaking an in-depth analysis of the topics covered in this blog during the 10 online interactive webinars each week.

Tax Elasticity Of Deposits

In the 2002 article International Tax Co-operation and Capital Mobility, prepared for an ECLAC report, from analysing data from the Bank for International Settlements (“BIS”) on international bank deposits, Valpy Fitzgerald found “that non-bank depositors are very sensitive to domestic wealth taxes and interest reporting, as well as to interest rates, which implies that tax evasion is a determinant of such deposits….”[1]  Non-bank depositors are persons that instead invest in alternative international portfolios and financial instruments. 

Estimating How Much Latin American Tax Evasion are US Banks Involved With?

Within two weeks I will post a short blogticle that I am preparing regarding an estimated low figure of $300B capital outflow that has begun / will occur from the USA pursuant to its signing of a TIEA with Brazil.  Some South Florida real estate moguls have speculated that this TIEA has played a substantial role in the withdrawal of Brazilian interest in its real estate market, which has partly led to the sudden crash in purchases of newly contrasted condominium projects.  

Three historical benchmarks regarding the imposition of withholding tax on interest illustrate the immediate and substantial correlation that an increase in tax on interest has on capital flight.  The benchmarks are (1) the 1964 US imposition of withholding tax on interest that immediately led to the creation of the London Euro-dollar market;[2] (2) the 1984 US exemption of withholding tax on portfolio interest that immediately led to the capital flight from Latin America of US$300 billion to US banks;[3] and (3) the 1989 German imposition of withholding tax that led to immediate capital flight to Luxembourg and other jurisdictions with banking secrecy[4].  The effect was so substantial that the tax was repealed only four months after imposition.

The Establishment of London as an International Financial Center

The 1999 IMF Report on Offshore Banking concluded that the US experienced immediate and significant capital outflows in 1964 and 1965 resulting from the imposition of a withholding tax on interest.  Literature identifies the establishment of London as a global financial centre as a result of the capital flight from the US because of its imposition of Interest Equalisation Tax (IET) of 1964.[5]  The take off of the embryonic London eurodollar market resulted from the imposition of the IET.[6]  IET made it unattractive for foreign firms to issue bonds in the US.  Syndicated bonds issued outside the US rose from US$135 million in 1963 to US$696 million in 1964.[7]    In 1964-65, the imposition of withholding tax in Germany, France, and The Netherlands, created the euromark, eurofranc and euroguilder markets respectively.[8]  

The Establishment of Miami as an International Financial Center

Conversely, when in 1984 the US enacted an exemption for portfolio interest from withholding tax, Latin America experienced a capital flight of $300 billion to the US.[9]  A substantial portion of these funds were derived from Brazil.  In fact, some pundits have suggested that Miami as a financial center resulted not from the billions generated from the laundering of drug proceeds which had a tendency to flow outward, but from the hundreds of billions generated from Latin inward capital, nearly all unreported to the governments of origination.

The Establishment of Luxembourg as an International Financial Center

In January of 1989, West Germany imposed a 10% withholding tax on savings and investments.  In April it was repealed, effective July 1st, because the immediate cost to German Banks had already reached DM1.1 billion.[10]  The capital flight was so substantial that it caused a decrease in the value of the Deutsche mark, thereby increasing inflation and forcing up interest rates.  According to the Financial Times, uncertainty about application of the tax, coupled with the stock crash in 1987, had caused a number of foreign investment houses to slow down or postpone their investment plans in Germany.  A substantial amount of capital went to Luxembourg, as well as Switzerland and Lichtenstein.

Switzerland’s Fisc May Come Out Ahead

Perhaps ironically given the nature of the UBS situation currently unfolding, a Trade Based Money Laundering study by three prominent economists and AML experts focused also on measuring tax evasion uncovered that overvalued Swiss imports and undervalued Swiss exports resulted in capital outflows from Switzerland to the United States in the amount of $31 billion within a five year time span of 1995-2000.[11]  That is, pursuant to this transfer pricing study, the Swiss federal and cantonal revenue authorities are a substantial loser to capital flight to the USA.  The comparable impact of the lost tax revenue to the much smaller nation of Switzerland upon this transfer pricing tax avoidance (and perhaps trade-based money laundering) may be significantly greater than that of the USA from its lost revenue on UBS account holders.  Certainly, both competent authorities will have plenty of work on their hands addressing the vast amount of information that needs to be exchanged to stop the bleeding from both countries’ fiscs.

Let me know if you are interested in further developments or analysis in this area.  Prof. William Byrnes (www.llmprogram.org)


[1] International Tax Cooperation and Capital Mobility, Valpy Fitzgerald, 77 CEPAL Review 67 (August 2002) p.72.

[2] See Charles Batchelor, European Issues Go from Strength to Strength: It began with Autostrade’s International Bond in 1963, The Financial Times (September 25, 2003) p.33; An E.U. Withholding Tax?

[3] Globalisation, Tax Competition, and the Fiscal Crisis of the Welfare State, Reuven Avi-Yonah, 113 HVLR 1573, 1631 (May 2000).

[4] Abolition of Withholding Tax Agreed in Bonn Five-Month-Old Interest Withholding To Be Repealed, 89 TNI 19-17.

[5] See Charles Batchelor, European Issues Go from Strength to Strength: It began with Autostrade’s International Bond in 1963, The Financial Times (September 25, 2003) p.33; An E.U. Withholding Tax?

[6] 1999 IMF Offshore Banking Report  p.16.

[7] 1999 IMF Offshore Banking Report  p.16-17.

[8] 1999 IMF Offshore Banking Report  p.17.

[9] Globalisation, Tax Competition, and the Fiscal Crisis of the Welfare State, Reuven Avi-Yonah, 113 HVLR 1573, 1631 (May 2000).

[10] Abolition of Withholding Tax Agreed in Bonn Five-Month-Old Interest Withholding To Be Repealed, 89 TNI 19-17.

[11] Maria E. de Boyrie, Simon J. Pak and John S. Zdanowicz The Impact Of Switzerland’s Money Laundering Law On Capital Flows Through Abnormal Pricing In International Trade Applied 15 Financial Economics 217–230 (Rutledge 2005).

Posted in Compliance, Financial Crimes, information exchange, Legal History, OECD, Taxation, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Cross-Border Information Exchange part 2

Posted by William Byrnes on August 26, 2009


This week we continue with our examination of Cross-Border Information Exchange, primarily due to the press about the UBS settlement and the soon turning over of approximately 5,000 tax-evading US account holders.  Information Exchange is of course one aspect of cross-border cooperation.  Another important aspect is Cross Border Assistance with Tax Collection which we will address within the next two weeks.

2001 UN Model DTA – Tax Information Exchange (Art. 26)

The United Nations Model is similar in scope to the OECD model displayed in my previous blogticle.  However, the UN Model defines the type of information and methodology of investigative exchange as regards the requesting state having access to cross border corporate records, though under the OECD Model such information may also be sought and methodology used.

Agreement Among The Governments Of The Member States Of The Caribbean Community For The Avoidance Of Double Taxation And The Prevention Of Fiscal Evasion With Respect To Taxes On Income, Profits, Or Gains And Capital Gains And For The Encouragement Of Regional Trade And Investment

Article 24: Exchange of Information

     1. The competent authorities of the Member States shall exchange such information as is necessary for the carrying out of this Agreement and of the domestic laws of the Member States concerning taxes covered by this Agreement in so far as the taxation thereunder is in accordance with this Agreement. Any information so exchanged shall be treated as secret and shall only be disclosed to persons or authorities including Courts and other administrative bodies concerned with the assessment or collection of the taxes which are the subject of this Agreement. Such persons or authorities shall use the information only for such purposes and may disclose the information in public court proceedings or judicial decisions.

      2. In no case shall the provisions of paragraph 1 be construed so as to impose on one of the Member States the obligation:

           (a) to carry out administrative measures at variance with the laws or the administrative practice of that or/of the other Member States;

           (b) to supply particulars which are not obtainable under the laws or in the normal course of the administration of that or of the other Member States;

           (c) to supply information which would disclose any trade, business, industrial, commercial or professional secret or trade process the disclosure of which would be contrary to public policy.

2000 Improving Access to Bank Information for Tax Purposes (OECD)

In 2000, the OECD issued Improving Access to Bank Information for Tax Purposes.  The 2000 OECD Report acknowledged that banking secrecy is “widely recognised as playing a legitimate role in protecting the confidentiality of the financial affairs of individuals and legal entities”.  This Report focused on improving exchange of information pursuant to a specific request for information related to a particular taxpayer.  In this regard, it noted that pursuant to its 1998 (OECD) Report, 32 jurisdictions had already made political commitments to engage in effective exchange of information for criminal tax matters for tax periods starting from 1 January 2004 and for civil tax matters for tax periods starting from 2006. 

 A Progress Report on the Jurisdictions Surveyed by the OECD Global Forum in Implementing the Internationally Agreed Tax Standard

 When we examine TIEAs, we will also look at the most recent OECD update A Progress Report on the Jurisdictions Surveyed by the OECD Global Forum in Implementing the Internationally Agreed Tax Standard issued August 25, 2009 (see http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/50/0/42704399.pdf). The exchange of information on request in all tax matters for the administration and enforcement of domestic tax law without regard to a domestic tax interest requirement or bank secrecy for tax purposes is the standard the OECD developed in co-operation with non-OECD countries and which was endorsed by G20 Finance Ministers at their Berlin Meeting in 2004 and by the UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters at its October 2008 Meeting.  

The OECD claims that the confidentiality of the information exchanged will be protected by the recipient jurisdiction though at this time no measures have been announced to assess any safeguards should such be established.

2003 EU-US Agreements for Mutual Legal Assistance

On 25 June 2003 the US and EU signed an agreement, applying to all EU member States, for Mutual Legal Assistance.[1]  The EU-US MLA and Extradition Agreements (see my blogticle wherein I will address Extradition Agreements) do not currently extend to the United Kingdom’s Overseas Territories.  Article 16 (1)(b) of the MLA agreement enables the agreement to apply to Overseas Territories of EU member States but only where this is agreed by exchange of diplomatic note, so it is not automatic.  

The agreement’s purpose is to assist a requesting state to prosecute offences through cooperation of another State or jurisdiction in obtaining cross-border information and evidence.  This Agreement applies to tax matters involving criminal tax evasion.  This Agreement could widen the scope of financial institution and professional service provider information allowed to be requested specifically with regard to the financial information covered below.

Any party to the Agreement is required pursuant to the request to provide information regarding whether its banks, other financial institutions and non-bank institutions[2] within its jurisdiction possess information on accounts and financial transactions unrelated to accounts regarding targeted natural or legal persons.  The Agreement specifically excludes banking secrecy as a defense for non-compliance.  In order to receive banking or financial information from a financial institution or non-financial institution, the requesting State must provide the competent authority of the other State with: 

  • the natural or legal person’s identity relevant to locating the accounts or transactions;
  • information regarding the bank/s or non-bank financial institution/s that may be involved, to the extent such information is available, in order to avoid fishing expeditions; and
  • sufficient information to enable that competent authority:  
  •     to reasonably suspect that the target concerned has engaged in a criminal offence;
  •     to reasonably expect that the bank/s or non-bank financial institution/s of the requested state may have the information requested; and
  •     to reasonably expect that there is a nexus between the information requested and the offence.

 This multi-lateral MLAT Agreement, unlike TIEAs that have developed since 2001, contains a dual criminality requirement, but it applies retroactively to offences committed before the Agreement’s entry into force date, Article 12-(1) provides for this.  Criminal tax fraud is an underlying crime for purposes of the offence of money laundering. Thus, this Agreement probably will allow any party to the Agreement to seek financial information from another State regarding a specific taxpayer’s criminal tax fraud for offences committed before the tax year beginning  January 1, 2004.  The retroactive provision in Article 12(1) may run counter to a fundamental principle of criminal law in that a person cannot criminally suffer for an act or conduct which was not an offence at the time the act was committed or conduct took place.  Whether these MLAT agreements establish a situation of retroactive criminal application may eventually be addressed as a human rights issue.

 Tax Treaties course

 In the Tax Treaties course starting in September, Prof. Marshall Langer will be undertaking an in-depth analysis of these instruments and issues raised above.


[1] Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance Between the European Union and the United States of America, Article 16, Territorial Application.

[2] Including trust companies and company service providers

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