[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] and the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) [official website] announced [official press release] on Tuesday that more than 14,700 Americans have reported to the IRS previously hidden overseas bank accounts in response to a temporary forgiveness program [official website], allowing delinquent taxpayers to avoid criminal prosecution for tax evasion by paying all overdue taxes and penalties. The overwhelming response to the amnesty program eclipsed the 100 or so foreign account disclosures made last year and included bank accounts from 70 countries. US Deputy Attorney General David Ogden [official profile] praised the IRS program:
The Department of Justice is pleased with the extraordinary results achieved from this landmark settlement. The message to American taxpayers is clear: the era of bank secrecy and hidden assets is over. We will continue to work closely with the IRS and our international partners to ensure that our tax laws are enforced fully and fairly, and that the rule of law is vindicated.
Earlier this year, the US and Switzerland signed a treaty [JURIST report] that would increase the amount of information shared between the two nations on would-be tax evaders. The agreement, constructed in accordance with Article 26 of the Model Tax Convention [text, PDF], came one month after a former UBS [corporate website] banker was sentenced to 40 months in prison [JURIST report] for helping a California real estate developer hide $200 million to avoid paying taxes. One day before that sentencing, a Swiss banker and lawyer were indicted in US federal court [JURIST report] for helping clients hide assets. Earlier in August, the US reached a preliminary agreement with Switzerland over the identification of anonymous accounts [JURIST report] in Swiss banks, which would aid US officials in identifying those who seek to evade taxes.