Thursday, December 16, 2010

US tax chief eyes more banks, possible new amnesty

The US tax chief said leads from the landmark case against UBS AG, which admitted helping wealthy Americans evade taxes through offshore accounts, point toward other banks and financial advisers in Asia and the Middle East.

Douglas Shulman, commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, also said the agency was considering a new amnesty program for tax evaders.

UBS last year admitted helping US clients avoid taxes by stashing money overseas. It paid a fine of USD 780 million to the US government and agreed to hand over the names of thousands of accounts to settle the case.

The IRS has been sifting through information from 18,000 accounts from individuals who came forward under an amnesty program designed to lure the wealthy to declare their assets. That includes 3,000 additional disclosures that came forward after the amnesty ended.

"This information has already proved invaluable in supplementing and corroborating prior leads, as well as developing new leads, involving numerous banks," Shulman said in remarks prepared for delivery to a tax conference.

The winding down of the UBS case has revived speculation about which banks US authorities will target next.

Clients of HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe's biggest bank, received letters in June from the US Justice Department notifying them that they are targets of a criminal probe.

Shulman said the agency is considering a new amnesty program for delinquent taxpayers, but the terms will not be as generous as for the last one.

Lawyers for the wealthy have complained that there is no clarity in terms of penalties for individuals who want to come forward.

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