The Taxman Cometh

The Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday disclosed how the Swiss banking giant UBS is selecting which American clients will be turned over to the agency as part of a settlement of a tax evasion case.

Under legal pressure, UBS agreed this summer to hand over the names of about 4,450 American clients suspected by the IRS of using offshore accounts to evade taxes. The bank paid a $780 million penalty under a deferred prosecution agreement filed in a Florida federal court.

On Tuesday, the tax agency said more than 14,700 U.S. taxpayers came forward voluntarily and disclosed billions in offshore bank accounts in 70 countries this year under an Internal Revenue Service program amnesty program that expired Oct. 15.

It allowed anyone who came forward to avoid criminal prosecution as long as they paid what they owed. Normally, about 100 Americans voluntarily come forward about such offshore accounts and unpaid taxes each other, the agency said.

The IRS said the recent disclosures involved accounts on every continent but Antarctica. Seven of those people have been charged criminally, and at least two sentenced to prison.

The government originally sought up to 52,000 names but settled on a tenth of that goal and is now focused on uncovering UBS clients with the largest accounts on which proper taxes may not have been paid.

"The Department of Justice is pleased with the extraordinary results achieved from this landmark settlement," said Deputy Attorney General David Ogden. "The message to American taxpayers is clear: the era of bank secrecy and hidden assets is over."

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