In July of 2015, Privatbank Von Graffenried AG became the 15th offshore bank to participate in the Swiss Bank Program. The Swiss Bank Program incentivizes foreign banks to turn over U.S.-affiliated customers who may not have complied with their reporting requirements or tax obligations. U.S. taxpayers are supposed to file annual reports of offshore bank accounts and pay taxes on income.
When they don’t, they can face financial and possibly criminal consequences. Banks who helped to facilitate tax evasion are being promised non-prosecution deals if they give authorities information on U.S.-affiliated customers who may have broken tax laws.
The Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Justice anticipate approximately 80 banks will take advantage of the Swiss Bank Program to protect their institutions from facing criminal charges. Offshore accountholders need to be aware that 1/5 of this goal has been met and that many more banks are probably going to be turning over information.
A New Jersey tax evasion attorney can help those whose information is provided to U.S. authorities by their bank. Call as soon as possible to see if you are still eligible to participate in amnesty programs for individuals or to get advice on responding to criminal charges that are brought against you for failing to fulfill your tax duties.
Banks are Exposing Their Customers
Privatbank Von Graffenried AG agreed to pay a $287,000 fine as part of its non-prosecution agreement, which is a significantly smaller fine than many of the other participating banks have paid. In total, the 15 banks that have entered into non-prosecution agreements as part of the Swiss Bank Program have paid $268 million in fines. While this is a staggering sum of money, it is less than criminal penalties would have amounted to if the banks were prosecuted.
Banks have tremendous financial incentive to become part of the Swiss Bank Program, even though participation requires more than just paying big sums of money. These financial institutions have to agree to comply with treaty requests for information and must agree to cooperate with U.S. authorities. They also have to provide a mind-boggling array of very specific details about accountholders who are affiliated with the United States.
For instance, banks have to turn over identifying details on individuals and entities who held funds offshore. They have to report on whether any U.S. securities were owned by accountholders and they have to provide information on the aggregate amount of U.S.-associated money kept at each bank as well as on the specific amounts of money in the accounts owned by U.S. investors. The banks have to give details about how transactions were structured and even have to turn in their own employees by providing information on who oversaw and managed the foreign investment accounts.
When the banks provide all of this information, authorities are using it to go after U.S. accountholders to make them pay back taxes. Criminal charges are possible if you are not a participant in the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program and if authorities find you failed to live up to your tax obligations. An NJ tax evasion attorney like Kevin Thorn can provide representation in criminal cases, but you should act as soon as you can to potentially avoid charges being brought against you.