Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Should the IRS prosecute confessed evaders of offshore accounts?

In September 2009 the IRS has called attention to its voluntary disclosure program to encourage taxpayers to come forward on foreign bank accounts. The IRS published the Voluntary Disclosure: Questions and Answers which describes the extension of the Sept. 23, 2009 deadline for the special voluntary disclosure related to offshore accounts. It explains those who voluntary disclosed their offshore accounts would generally suffer a less harsh penalty than what could be applied under the law. According to one tax blog and a Wall Street Journal article of May 5, 2010, about 15,000 US taxpayers did “voluntary disclose” their offshore accounts prior to the end of the deadline for such disclosures.

However, if the IRS is already examining the taxpayer (even on another matter) then the taxpayer is not eligible. Also, the disclosure has to come before the IRS has the information from another source, of course.

A blog in TaxingMatter raises a great question: Should their confession even under the circumstances that the IRS already has information on them, provide a "get out of jail free" card and not prosecution?

Do you agree with the people that seem to “rank” tax evaders as a non-serious crime? Activity tax evasion as though it really is not a serious crime. The harm to ordinary Americans is not trivial-- there is the loss of revenues, not to mention the burden borne by "good" taxpayers who have to make up one way or another for the gap in revenues. Are we sending the message that some people are above the law?

Or do we agree with the criminal tax lawyers that are criticizing the IRS for its decision to prosecute some people who confessed they used foreign bank accounts to evade taxes, calling the IRS actions “trickery” because some people confessed to their undeclared Swiss bank accounts shortly before the IRS declared a special amnesty program?

Read more in the Wall Street Journal here.

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