At “Asset Search vs. Offshore Asset Protection“, I wrote that offshore asset protection services were being used to conceal assets from IRS revenue officers and others. The Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee On Investigations, just issued a 114-page report examining this same issue. The Report entitled, Tax Haven Banks And U.S. Tax Compliance, explains how U.S. tax cheats hid assets from the IRS by using the asset protection services of Liechtenstein’s LGT Group and Switzerland’s UBS.
Page 2 of the Report for example, mentioned that the IRS had learned this past February of about 100 suspected tax cheats with offshore accounts at LGT Group. The 100 were part of a group of 1400 who had allegedly opened offshore accounts at LGT to hide assets from tax authorities around the world. As more fully described by “Offshore Bank Accounts In Liechtenstein“, the suspected tax cheats were discovered because an LGT employee had sold a stolen LGT customer list. The stolen customer list was eventually disseminated to the IRS and other tax authorities.
The Report also discussed former UBS banker Bradley Birkenfeld, who had cooperated with Senate Subcommittee investigators as mentioned by a July 17, Bloomberg.com article. Mr. Birkenfeld pleaded guilty last month to helping billionaire California real estate developer Igor Olenicoff evade U.S. taxes. According to Mr. Birkenfeld’s indictment, he had conspired to hide assets from the IRS through: nominees; offshore credit cards; shell companies; bank accounts in high-risk locations / tax havens like Liechtenstein and Switzerland; etc. Among other things, Mr. Birkenfeld also violated various IRS reporting requirements and participated in the filing of false IRS income tax returns.
“Finally, in a July 17, 2008 press release about the Report, Ranking Minority Member Norm Coleman (R-Minn), summed up the problem of banks that offered offshore asset protection:
By exploiting gaping loopholes, these foreign banks are enabling felony tax evasion. Simply put, foreign banks should not be Al Capone safe-houses for evading taxes. Closing these loopholes means we must strengthen reporting requirements, broaden the scope of the audit program, and extend the amount of time the IRS has to investigate cases involving an offshore tax haven.”
Copyright 2008 Fred L. Abrams