Financial Regulatory Forum

ANALYSIS-Asia next in line of fire for U.S. tax police

By Jason Rhodes, Kevin Lim and Joe Rauch

ZURICH/SINGAPORE/CHARLOTTE, July 7 (Reuters) – After forcing Switzerland’s top bank UBS ┬áto its knees for helping U.S. residents dodge taxes, U.S. authorities are moving on other banks and countries used to hide clients’ cash.

Washington inflicted a tough lesson last year on Switzerland by forcing the world’s biggest offshore banking centre to lift its treasured bank secrecy and slapping a $780-million penalty on UBS.

The Department of Justice is now going after other offshore centres like Singapore, which have attracted undeclared money that left Switzerland, and has opened a criminal inquiry into Asian clients of Britain’s HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe’s No. 1 bank.

Banks in Singapore and Hong Kong hold estimated offshore wealth worth $700 billion against Switzerland’s $2 trillion, according to the 2010 Boston Consulting Group Wealth Report.

“There are going to be more such cases,” a U.S. Internal Revenue Service source told Reuters. “There’s a lot of talk about money being moved from Switzerland into Asia.”

ANALYSIS-Banks not out of woods after Swiss tax ruling

By Kim Dixon

WASHINGTON, Jan 29 (Reuters) – The Swiss court ruling in favor of a U.S. client who stashed funds in a UBS account sets a higher hurdle to aggressive efforts by the U.S. government to go after other banks helping wealthy tax cheats — but the banks are not out of the woods yet.

A Swiss court ruled last week that the client’s failure to file a tax form did not constitute “fraud or the like,” a requirement for data to be revealed under a double taxation agreement with the United States.

The ruling puts in jeopardy Switzerland’s delivery of 4,450 UBS client accounts to U.S. authorities, as agreed in August.

Order for UBS to release client data ruled unlawful by Swiss court

By Jason Rhodes

ZURICH, Jan 8 (Reuters) – The Swiss financial regulator broke bank secrecy law last year when it ordered UBS to hand over the files of nearly 300 clients to U.S. authorities, a Swiss court said on Friday.

Regulator FINMA decided on Feb. 18 to allow UBS to hand over some client data to U.S. tax officials, weakening the country’s strict bank secrecy rules in an effort to end a damaging probe into its biggest bank, which prompted clients to pull billions of francs from accounts and leave in droves.

“Even though FINMA was in a difficult position because of the threat of charges against UBS AG, it should not have ordered unilaterally the passing on of data outside of a proper process of a request for official assistance,” Switzerland’s Federal Administrative Court said.

U.S. judge rejects leniency for UBS whistleblower

By Tom Brown

MIAMI, Jan 4 (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Monday upheld the prison sentence of a key informant in the tax fraud case against Swiss bank UBS AG and ordered him to start serving his 40-month term as scheduled this Friday.

The ruling by Fort Lauderdale Federal Judge William Zloch ignored both public and legal pleas for leniency by former UBS banker Bradley Birkenfeld, the main whistleblower in the high-profile case that cracked open Swiss banking secrecy.

Lawyers for Birkenfeld had asked Zloch last month to postpone the Jan. 8 start of his prison term, saying he was ready to cooperate further with the authorities in their pursuit of U.S. tax cheats.

EXCLUSIVE – U.S. revenue service hires “hundreds” for high-wealth tax cheat unit

By Kim Dixon

WASHINGTON, Dec 11 (Reuters) – A new U.S. Internal Revenue Service unit set up to catch rich tax cheats hiding their wealth in complex business entities is rapidly taking shape with the hiring of hundreds of employees.

The IRS high wealth unit, part of a broader effort to combat international tax evasion, is focusing on “the entire web of business entities controlled by a high wealth individual,” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman told a tax conference this week.

Another IRS official told Reuters “hundreds” of people have already been hired to staff the new unit, including some from within the agency.

Swiss would sign Italy tax treaty if off blacklist

ROME, Nov 5 (Reuters) – Switzerland’s Economy Minister Doris Leuthard, visiting Rome on Thursday in the midst of a dispute over tax policies, said her country was willing to sign a double taxation treaty with Italy but only if it was removed from a blacklist of tax havens.


Bahamas signs tax accord with Britain in step toward OECD compliance

NASSAU, Oct 29 (Reuters)- The Bahamas on Thursday signed a tax information agreement with Britain, in a move it heralded as another step toward inclusion on an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) “white list” of countries that meet internationally agreed tax standards.


Britain’s offshore havens asked to bump up taxes

By Huw Jones
LONDON, Oct 29 (Reuters) – Britain’s overseas financial havens should bump up taxes to wean their economies off credit crunch hit banking, insurance and funds services, a government-commissioned report said on Thursday.


7,500 offshore tax evaders come clean – chief

U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Douglas Shulman speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in Washington October 8, 2009. To match interview TAX-OFFSHORE/        REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang  (UNITED STATES CRIME LAW BUSINESS POLITICS) WASHINGTON, Oct 14 (Reuters) – Thousands of wealthy Americans have volunteered information about unreported income hidden in overseas accounts ahead of the deadline for a U.S. government tax amnesty program, the U.S. tax commissioner said on Wednesday.


France to tighten rules on dealing with tax havens

PARIS, Oct 7 (Reuters) – The French government plans to strengthen its fiscal rules towards countries on the OECD’s tax “grey list” that have not signed bilateral agreements with France, Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Wednesday.