Tax and Accounting Correspondent
Lynnley's Feed
Feb 8, 2012

U.S. eases banks’ burden in foreign tax push

By Lynnley Browning

(Reuters) – The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday eased the burdens imposed on many banks and other financial institutions by a crackdown on Americans’ offshore tax dodging, and enlisted five European governments to play a key role in the global effort.

At issue is the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, a controversial set of measures enacted by Congress in 2010 that has drawn sharp criticism from the financial industry worldwide about costs and legal issues.

Feb 3, 2012

U.S. Justice Department indicts Swiss bank Wegelin

By Lynnley Browning

(Reuters) – The United States indicted Wegelin, the oldest Swiss private bank, on charges that it enabled wealthy Americans to evade taxes on at least $1.2 billion hidden in offshore bank accounts, the U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday.

The announcement, by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, represents the first time an overseas bank has been indicted by the United States for enabling tax fraud by U.S. taxpayers.

Jan 26, 2012

Assets on tax forms missing on Romney financial disclosures

By Mark Hosenball and Lynnley Browning

(Reuters) – A handful of financial holdings reported by U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on his tax returns was not declared in earlier government financial disclosures, his campaign acknowledged on Thursday.

A comparison of Romney’s 2010 tax filings with a set of disclosure forms he submitted last year to government election officials showed some holdings listed in the tax returns were not listed in the publicly available disclosure forms.

Jan 24, 2012

How did Romney’s IRA grow so big?

By Lynnley Browning

(Reuters) – In the wake of news reports last week that presidential contender Mitt Romney owns an individual retirement account worth as much as $101 million, questions are growing over how it could have gotten so big when contribution limits are capped at $5,000 or $6,000 a year.

Tax lawyers and accountants suggest an answer: Romney may have made use of an Internal Revenue Service loophole that allows investors to undervalue interests in investment partnerships when first putting them into an IRA. These assets can produce returns far in excess of those that could be generated from other investments made at the capped level.

Jan 17, 2012

Timeline: Romney’s past statements on tax returns

By Lynnley Browning

(Reuters) – Mitt Romney’s tax returns have become an issue in the Republican presidential primary contest and the candidate said on Tuesday he probably will not release them until April, despite demands from rivals that the returns be laid bare.

Here is a look at what Romney, formerly governor of Massachusetts, has said in the past about his tax returns.

Jan 11, 2012

IRS watchdog accuses agency of “bait-and-switch”

By Lynnley Browning

(Reuters) – The Internal Revenue Service has persuaded U.S. taxpayers to disclose hidden offshore bank accounts but then sometimes failed to cap the penalties, as promised, an agency watchdog said on Wednesday, accusing the IRS of “bait and switch.”

The Taxpayer Advocate Service, an oversight arm of the IRS, wrote in its annual report to Congress that a series of IRS voluntary disclosure programs allowing wealthy Americans to come forward and disclose their hidden accounts in exchange for reduced penalties had caused some taxpayers to pay more than they had been led to believe was required. Such taxpayers are typically those who have inherited accounts or work overseas.

Jan 10, 2012

Swiss bank unfazed in face of any US legal action

By Martin de Sa’Pinto and Lynnley Browning

(Reuters) – Wegelin & Co, one of Switzerland’s oldest banks, on Monday played down any threat by U.S. authorities to take legal action that could lead to charges that the bank enabled wealthy Americans to evade taxes.

In a statement emailed to Reuters, Wegelin said it did not fear the possibility of any such charges – sometimes a corporate death-knell, at least for American companies – by the Justice Department, which is conducting a criminal investigation of the bank’s offshore private banking services.

Jan 9, 2012

IRS revives offshore tax dodger forgiveness

By Lynnley Browning

(Reuters) – The Internal Revenue Service said on Monday it is reopening a voluntary disclosure program for taxpayers who have evaded taxes by hiding money offshore in secret bank accounts.

Two previous IRS programs, in 2009 and 2011, brought in more than $4.4 billion in taxes from tens of thousands of tax evaders, said the tax collection agency.

Jan 9, 2012

US moves toward legal action against Swiss bank-sources

Jan 9 (Reuters) – U.S. authorities are moving toward
taking legal action against Wegelin & Co, which could lead to an
indictment of one of Switzerland’s last pure private banks, on
charges that it enabled wealthy Americans to evade taxes,
according to two persons with knowledge of the case.

Negotiations in the case have reached a critical stage, with
an indictment possible though the bank is seeking a deferred
prosecution agreement, which would be less damaging. The outcome
depends on how prosecutors, the U.S. State Department and the
U.S. Treasury Department agree to treat the matter, the sources
said.

Jan 6, 2012

Swiss case lifts curtain on correspondent banking

By Lynnley Browning

(Reuters) – The indictment of three Swiss bankers employed by Switzerland’s oldest private bank sheds light on an obscure corner of hidden offshore wealth: the relationships some smaller banks have with bigger banks for moving clients’ money around the world.

These inter-bank ties are increasingly important to a U.S. crackdown on Swiss banks suspected of enabling tax evasion for wealthy Americans, said persons briefed on the matter.