by Brian Mahany
If you think the IRS is aggressive in its quest to uncover every American taxpayer and dual national with unreported offshore accounts, you haven’t seen the Germans. The German Federal Central Tax Office has no problem with buying lists of customers, bribing bank officials and even stealing the information. If you have an unreported account in Germany, the FCTO will find it. Unfortunately for Americans with unreported accounts, the Germans and the U.S. Treasury Department have an information sharing agreement.
Earlier this week, a German prosecutor agreed to not proceed against Credit Suisse after settling on a $204 million fine. Credit Suisse came under scrutiny last year after German cops raided 13 Credit Suisse offices. The IRS tends to issue subpoenas and compel foreign banks to turn over records. The Germans just go in and take what they want.
Credit Suisse is also under intense scrutiny in the U.S. as well. Earlier this year in July the US Department of Justice indicted a Credit Suisse banker and accused him of assisting Americans who wanted to hide their assets.
Given the strong tactics by both nations and the historical cooperation between both, Americans with unreported Swiss accounts are living on borrowed time. Remember, simply owning a foreign bank or brokerage account is legal. Not reporting the account on a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Account (FBAR) and any income from the account is illegal. Non reporting either is punishable by prison and huge fines of 50% of the account value per year!
Although the 2011 offshore tax amnesty program is over (“OVDI”), the IRS continues to accept voluntary disclosures. The outcome is a bit more uncertain depending on whether you failure to report was “willful” in the eyes of the IRS but criminal prosecution can almost always be avoided.
If you have unreported offshore income or foreign accounts, call us. There is no obligation and the call is completely confidential. Our tax attorneys have considerable offshore reporting experience and can often help you avoid penalties. For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany at (414) 704-6731 or by email at
Mahany & Ertl, LLC – America’s Tax Lawyers. Offices in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Detroit, Michigan; Portland, Maine & San Francisco, California. Services nationwide.