Secret Bank Account Holders Rush to Meet Thursday Amnesty Deadline

October 13, 2009

Simpsons - Cayman IslandsSince Swiss Bank UBS announced earlier this summer that it will turn over the names of 4,450 Americans suspected of evading taxes through the use of Swiss bank accounts, thousands of Americans have flocked to take advantage of an account-disclosure amnesty that expires this Thursday. This includes not only those who bank with UBS but those who think other banks aren’t too far behind:

Tax lawyers in Southern California say they’ve encountered an array of clients concerned about international bank accounts: Hollywood producers, immigrants who left behind foreign accounts and business owners who have stashed money overseas to avoid taxation.

“It’s crazy busy,” said Pasadena tax attorney Phil Hodgen, who for a brief period in September stopped accepting new clients because he was overwhelmed with amnesty requests. “These people are calling, saying, ‘I can’t sleep at night.’ “

Some 3,000 U.S. residents have voluntarily disclosed their foreign bank accounts to the IRS this year, compared to fewer than 100 in 2008, said one U.S. government official who asked not to be identified.[…]

Among Malik’s clients is one who received notice from UBS that his name was one of those that would be forwarded to the IRS. Some calls have come from holders of accounts with other foreign banks who don’t know whether their bank will start cooperating with the U.S.

“Some people have called me and asked, ‘How likely is it the government is going to get my name?’ ” Malik said. “I say, ‘I simply can’t handicap that. . . . But if you want me to fix it, I can.’ “

Once the amnesty deadline passes, a wave of prosecutions of U.S. tax evasion cases may follow. Some UBS clients have already faced criminal prosecution.

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