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IRS offers deal to Swiss banks who give up US clients

Few things boil the blood of the Internal Revenue Service more than foreign banks helping U.S. citizens avoid taxes. The IRS wants what is theirs and will do whatever it takes to get it. To that effect, the IRS has offered a deal to 300 Swiss banks to help it claim unpaid taxes.

The deal is this: Any bank that hands over the information of its American clients will not face prosecution for shielding the money from taxation. The offer is only good until Dec. 31. In 2014, the IRS has threatened to come down hard on banks.

It seems likely that some Swiss banks will crack under the pressure. With the threat of prosecution, they could face serious penalties and irreparable damage to their business. However, the banks also benefit from Americans turning themselves in before that ever happens.

The Justice Department agreed to deduct from the banks' penalties any back taxes paid to the IRS by Americans who have been hiding assets.

So far, Politico reports that many banks have been sending letters to their American clients, informing them of what is going on. If they don't come clean with the IRS, the letters say, their account information could be exposed, possibly leading to criminal charges.

If you have money in a foreign account, you may be wondering what your best approach is. Currently, the IRS has an amnesty program that allows anyone who comes clean and pays up to avoid prosecution. Amnesty only applies to taxpayers who make the first move, however. If they catch you first, you could face criminal charges. Because not all situations are alike, it may be beneficial to consult with an attorney about your best options.

Source: Politico, "Swiss banks urge U.S. tax dodgers to come clean to beat deadline," Rachael Bade, Dec. 16, 2013

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