TJN-USA - Comment on the Agreement between UBS, the Swiss Government and the IRS
Tax Justice Network USA on the Agreement between UBS, the Swiss Government and the IRS
August 20, 2009
Contact: Sarah Lewis, sarah.lewis (at) taxjusticenetworkusa.org, +1 202 550-6504
The agreement between UBS, the Swiss Government and the IRS is a good first step toward putting banks out of the business of selling to wealthy Americans tax evasion assistance under the guise of "wealth management." But it is only a first step. And, while the agreement is a reasonable resolution of a particularly egregious case it will not put Switzerland and its banks out of the cross-border tax evasion business for good. That should be the objective of national and international policy.
"The UBS settlement should be seen as the opening round in a long fight, " said Sarah Lewis, Executive Director of Tax Justice Network USA. "The key to success will be vigorous follow-through at the national and international level."
"Because of the UBS and Liechtenstein disclosures, we now know that foreign banks in bank secrecy jurisdictions have been routinely selling tax evasion services to Americans and to other wealthy people around the world. As the result of voluntary disclosures over the last several months it is now obvious that there is an entire offshore industry busy soliciting this tax evasion business. The industry is illegal and illegitimate and must be put out of business. This is the first major IRS offshore banking enforcement action in years, the first against a major Swiss bank, and no ordinary Swiss bank, but the world's largest player in international private banking." she continued.
Tax Justice Network USA takes the position that continued vigorous action at the national and international level is essential.
The US government should do the following:
• Insist that the issue of cross-border tax evasion be on the agenda of the September G-20 Summit in Pittsburg.
• Push for immediate international action to facilitate increased tax information exchange.
• Press for mandatory standards of bank behavior enforced by home governments that preclude assisting in cross border tax evasion.
• Use the UBS disclosures to prepare and serve additional "John Doe" summonses on other banks known to have offered tax evasion services in the US.
• Identify and prosecute, where appropriate, the intermediaries and salesmen who work in the industry.
• Apply the necessary resources to insure that the voluntary disclosures made under the IRS program are complete and honest.
The impact of the tax evasion business is worldwide. UBS is offering the same tax evasion services in dozens of other countries. Other banks were and are doing the same thing. Other governments should join in the effort to open UBS's books and expose its global role in supporting tax evasion.
Tax Justice Network USA applauds the forward progress represented by the agreement in this case, the question of follow through is critical.