IRS Rounding Up Offshore Tax Evaders

The Internal Revenue Service says 15,000 tax evaders who tried to hide cash in offshore accounts away from the tax man have stepped forward under the agencys amnesty programs, netting the government $2.2 billion in tax revenues from the 2009 program, and $500 million in interest from the 2011 program, for a total of $2.7 billion.

The agency says in a statement the 2009 amnesty program "led to about 15,000 voluntary disclosures and another 3,000 applicants who came in after the deadline, but were allowed to participate in the 2011 initiative. It adds: Beyond that, the 2011 program has generated an additional 12,000 voluntary disclosures, with some additional applications still being counted.

Put it all together, and the IRS has netted 30,000 voluntary disclosures about offshore assets from these programs.

Moreover, the IRS says it has yet to reap penalties from these evaders, which could rake in hundreds of millions more. By any measure, we are in the middle of an unprecedented period for our global international tax enforcement efforts, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said in a statement, adding: We have pierced international bank secrecy laws, and we are making a serious dent in offshore tax evasion.

The government has been pressuring banks around the globe to pony up names of U.S. taxpayers squirreling away money in offshore accounts, notably in Swiss banks. Switzerland's largest bank, UBS, signed an unprecedented agreement with the Treasury Department in 2009 about its offshore accounts. The Swiss bank agreed in 2009 to pay $780 million in fines, penalties, interest and restitution as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. government, the IRS says in a statement.

That has led to U.S. prosecutions, and a widening dragnet that includes a dozen banks, and now has shifted to Israel. U.S. Justice Department authorities are examining three of Israel's biggest banks over allegations they helped U.S. customers evade taxes, reports indicate. The banks reportedly under examination are Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi le-Israel BM and Mizrahi-Tefahot, the sources said.

The IRS says in a statement the latest data from the 2009 offshore program is just about 80% of the cases that it has closed for that year, involving bank accounts in 140 countries.

The IRS says in a statement that global tax enforcement is a top priority, involving international tax agreements and increased cooperation with other governments to pursue cases involving criminal investigation of international tax evasion.

My goal all along was to get people back into the U.S. tax system, IRS commissioner Shulman said in a statement. Not only are we bringing people back into the U.S. tax system, we are bringing revenue into the U.S. Treasury and turning the tide against offshore tax evasion.

The IRS adds in the statement that people hiding assets offshore have received jail sentences running for months or years, and they have been ordered to pay hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars.