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Turn the page

As another page on the calendar turns, all eyes go to that date directly in the middle of April. Tax day elicits almost universal dread, but perhaps most among those who have in the past not reported foreign accounts as required.

As part of its years-long effort to ferret out concealment of offshore accounts, the U.S. Justice Department recently held a press conference to announce the first non-prosecution agreement (NPA) with a Swiss bank. Banks that agree to the strict terms imposed on them by the DOJ are eligible to avoid prosecution for helping Americans avoid taxation of the account funds.

BSI SA, a privately held Swiss bank, agreed to pay a $200 million-plus fine, as well as hand over information on more than 3,000 accounts, according to Forbes. The bank agreed to a long list of terms, including giving its assistance in prosecutions and investigations, closing "recalcitrant accounts," disclosing information on all new accounts to the U.S., and more.

The IRS and DOJ note that they are in pursuit of account holders and financial institutions concealing holdings: "We are tracking the movement of funds in and out of these secret offshore accounts."

They warn that just because there are no public statements about enforcement actions in certain jurisdictions that people holding accounts in those places should not feel secure. The point of the statements is clearly to rattle account holders and get them to come forward and disclose their holdings.

The IRS says 50,000 taxpayers have voluntarily disclosed their holdings and that "(t)hose who have not yet disclosed their offshore accounts may still be eligible for a voluntary disclosure, but their time is running out..." For those who have decided that the time to disclose is now, you should beforehand discuss the matter with an attorney experienced in matters of possible tax evasion and possible exclusion from the program.

The calendar and IRS are relentless. Mark L. Horwitz has helped people in Florida and throughout the country benefit from voluntary disclosure and can help you too.

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