Offshore Tax Evaders Take Advantage Of IRS Amnesty

Tax cheats are coming clean. The Internal Revenue Service says nearly 15,000 tax evaders responded to its recent offer of limited amnesty. The program covered undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other assets. The response was far greater than expected.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Given a chance, you're apparently giving up some money and information. Nearly 15,000 Americans have turned themselves into the IRS under an amnesty program aimed at uncovering secret foreign bank accounts. That is many more than the government was expecting.

NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.

WENDY KAUFMAN: The deal offered by the government was straightforward. If you came clean, disclosed overseas accounts and paid up before last month's deadline, you probably wouldn't be prosecuted criminally. Seattle tax attorney Robert McCallum suggests that his clients who responded were motivated by both guilt and fear.

Mr. ROBERT MCCALLUM (Tax Attorney): I think the IRS did an unprecedented job of publicizing this program, and yes, probably scaring taxpayers into compliance.

KAUFMAN: Those taxpayers are now paying billions of dollars in back taxes and penalties. Future taxes on those formerly undisclosed accounts will bring in billions more. Earlier this year, the Swiss government and banking giant UBS agreed to give the IRS names of thousands of U.S. taxpayers believed to be hiding assets in Switzerland. The IRS says it is serious about piercing the veil of bank secrecy. The whole game, it says, has changed.

Wendy Kauffman, NPR News.

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