US authorities start harvesting UBS catch

By Branko Brkic 28 September 2009

A strange, new fear envelops US tax-dodgers these days: A fear of the Postman.

In February this year, the biggest Swiss bank, UBS was forced to hand over the names of 285 US citizens and pay a $780-million fine. It still owes the US government 4 450 names after another deal struck in August. UBS is currently informing its clients they are about to be outted to the Internal Revenue Service. One by one outted citizens are pleading guilty to tax evasion. The latest is Juergen Homann of New Jersey  who has agreed to open the whole process, and open wide. Homann’s whole smorgasboard of law firms, accountants, advisers, foundations, sham corporations and secret accounts in the US, Lichtenstein, Hong Kong and Switzerland enabled him to hide more than $5-million.

Although it’s certain we’re witnessing only an opening salvo in what is shaping to be a worldwide push by the US to end tax heavens and weaken banking secrecy laws, it’s not all so bleak for the dodgers. US tax authorities have introduced a voluntary disclosure programme to offer leniency to all who come forward and declare their sins. With 3 000 people already volunteering, there are still many more out there praying the letter in their postbox is not from the UBS.