Over 7,500 seek amnesty on offshore accounts

16th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

At least 7,500 Americans will pay back taxes in response to an amnesty program that expired Thursday.

Washington -- At least 7,500 Americans with undisclosed offshore bank accounts have come forward to settle back taxes in response to an amnesty program that expired Thursday, US officials said.

Internal Revenue Service spokesman Bruce Friedland said it was too soon to know the total number who would ask for amnesty under the program but confirmed that it would be a minimum of 7,500.

US Senator Carl Levin, head of a panel investigating tax havens, said in a statement Wednesday that the initial results from the program were positive.

"The fact that more than 7,500 US taxpayers took advantage of the IRS voluntary disclosure program to reveal hidden foreign accounts at more than 100 banks in 70 countries suggests that our efforts to end tax haven abuses may be making progress," Levin said.

"Some evidence of that progress is that many Americans are losing confidence in the ability of tax haven banks to hide their assets. But it is also clear that thousands of other taxpayers are still in the shadows, working to keep their offshore accounts hidden."

He said Congress should enact legislation to further restrain offshore tax abuse and collect an estimated USD 100 billion (CHF 101.7 billion) in unpaid taxes each year.

The IRS has said that persons who do not voluntarily offer information before the new deadline may face much harsher penalties, including criminal prosecution.

A wave of prosecutions is expected following a disclosure agreement with Swiss bank UBS.

US authorities are moving to regulate overseas accounts for tax evasion, as highlighted by the settlement with UBS in August to reveal the identities of some 4,450 of its American clients.

The landmark settlement challenged Switzerland's banking secrecy tradition and was expected to allow more prosecution efforts for tax evasion.

AFP / Expatica

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