Under an IRS voluntary disclosure program that allows U.S. taxpayers to come clean about secret foreign bank accounts and avoid possible prosecution, over 14,700 Americans have now admitted to hiding assets overseas, the IRS and the Justice Department announced today.
The number nearly doubles the more than 7,500 Americans who reported such accounts to the IRS before the Oct. 15 deadline, following a settlement with Swiss banking giant UBS.
"The message to American taxpayers is clear: the era of bank secrecy and hidden assets is over," U.S. Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden said in a statement.
The once-secretive Swiss bank sent letters to thousands of its American customers in early October, informing them "your account with UBS appears to be within the scope of the IRS Treaty Request" and that under a new agreement between the U.S. and Switzerland, UBS would provide names and account information to U.S. authorities.
In August, the two countries signed a historic agreement to obtain information from UBS to identify information on up to 4,450 accounts. U.S. officials believe the accounts could hold up to $18 billion, and they applauded the move as a major step in lifting the shroud of Swiss banking secrecy and uncovering potentially billions of dollars stored in accounts there by wealthy U.S. account holders who could be dodging U.S. taxes.
"We'll be receiving an unprecedented amount of information on taxpayers who have evaded their tax obligation by hiding money offshore at UBS," IRS Commissioner Dan Shulman said after the agreement was signed.