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US reaches deal with Switzerland over access to anonymous UBS accounts

[JURIST] The US government on Wednesday reached an agreement [press release] with Switzerland that would grant the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) [official website] access to information on thousands of Swiss bank accounts. As part of the agreement [text, PDF], the Swiss government will instruct banking giant UBS [corporate website] to begin to turn over information regarding certain anonymous bank accounts. In return, the US will cease unilateral efforts to seek account holder information, including withdrawing motions to enforce "John Doe" summons, although the summons will remain in effect. UBS will notify account holders that their information may be turned over the the IRS, though this will not necessarily make the individuals ineligible for the service's Voluntary Disclosure Program [text].

The agreement is the end of a contentious process by the IRS to seek out individuals who hide their income for the purpose of avoiding taxes. In early May, the Obama administration announced revisions to the tax code [JURIST report] designed to curb overseas tax havens. One week earlier, the Swiss government filed an amicus curiae brief in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleging that the attempt to obtain account holder information by the US violated Swiss national sovereignty [JURIST report]. Earlier this year, the Swiss announced their intention to adopt a more stringent definition [JURIST report] of tax evasion and to work with other countries to investigate such claims.

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