Affluenza, purported higher IQs, and now a headstart for those who already stack the deck?
Swiss banks are quietly warning wealthy U.S. clients with secret accounts to come clean with the tax man in the next two weeks — or risk jail time, according to several letters obtained by POLITICO.
The letters come ahead of a New Year’s Eve deadline the U.S. government set for about 300 Swiss banks to take deals protecting them from prosecution. In exchange for confessing and shelling out mountains of Americans’ account information, they’ll get immunity. It is a new twist to the traditional bank-client relationship.
“The banks have every incentive right now to shove their American clients into compliance in order to reduce the penalties,” said tax attorney Jeff Neiman, who prosecuted Swiss banking giant UBS for the U.S. government.
The effort is part of a U.S. crackdown on American tax evaders and the banks that help them, which ramped up when Swiss banking giant UBS admitted as much with a $780 million settlement in 2009. The Justice Department is currently probing 14 major Swiss financial institutions — including Credit Suisse, Julius Baer and the Swiss arm of HSBC — for shielding U.S. tax cheats.
The government gave a larger set of Swiss banks until Dec. 31 to sign up for non-prosecution deals, after paying a penalty of up to 50 percent of the secret assets.
POLITICO has seen three letters from Swiss banks to U.S. clients, two that were redacted, urging them to fess up.
“Your account information may be subject to a treaty request from the United States to the Swiss Federal Tax Administration, which may result in your account information being turned over to the DOJ or IRS,” warned one by Cornèr Bank, sent to an American client and obtained by POLITICO. “A disclosure … can be used by US authorities for law enforcement actions, including … criminal proceedings.”
Switzerland’s oldest private bank, Wegelin & Co., went belly up because of the Justice investigation.