Offshore Banking

IRS, DOJ Want a Peek at Some HSBC India Bank Accounts

Back in February, the IRS announced that it would be giving offshore bank account holders another chance to come clean on their tax-avoiding ways. Tax amnesty 1.0 went pretty well and last year, the IRS had a whale of time sticking it to UBS and a number of customers who were holding out. But in all honesty, we all know that picking off a bunch of blondes with above-average chocolatiering skills was some low-hanging fruit. Today the IRS, along with the DOJ, announced their next target of their sniffing-out-offshore-bank-account world tour. HSBC India! – come on down!

The United States is seeking an order from a federal court in San Francisco authorizing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to request information from HSBC Bank USA, N.A. about U.S. residents who may be using accounts at The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation in India (HSBC India) to evade federal income taxes, the Justice Department announced today.

The government filed a petition with the court to allow the IRS to serve what is known as a “John Doe” summons on the bank. The IRS uses a John Doe summons to obtain information about possible tax fraud by people whose identities are unknown. If approved, the John Doe summons would direct HSBC USA to produce records identifying U.S. taxpayers with accounts at HSBC India, many of whom are believed by the government to have hidden their accounts from the IRS.

And if anyone is getting the idea that this is an HSBC/Hong Kong/India issue, Doug Shulman would like you to know that this is not personal, it’s simply the IRS doing the Treasury’s dirty work, “The IRS continues to focus its attention on international tax evasion,” the Commish said. “This summons request is focused on obtaining more information to help us determine if additional actions are needed. As I’ve said all along, our international efforts are not about just one country or one bank – it’s about our wider effort to ensure compliance with the nation’s tax laws.”

The Treasury isn’t going to fill itself now, is it?

[via WSJ]

Accounting News Roundup: IRS Probing HSBC Clients with Accounts in Asia; Saints Deny State Money Was Taxable; Pot Tax Helps Helps Another California Budget | 07.07.10

HSBC Clients With Asian Accounts Said to Face Probe [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
“The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation of HSBC Holdings Plc clients who may have failed to disclose accounts in India or Singapore to the Internal Revenue Service, according to three people familiar with the matter.

‘This is a global initiative by IRS and the Department of Justice,’ said Robert McKenzie, an attorney at Arnstein & Lehr in Chicago who said he spoke to two people who got letters.

The probes show how the U.S. is expanding its crackdown on offshore tax evasion beyond Switzerland and UBS AG, the largest Swiss bank, sa tax lawyer at Greenberg Traurig LLP in New York. London-based HSBC is Europe’s biggest lender by market value.

‘It’s clear that the IRS and the Department of Justice are intending to pursue other depositors outside of Switzerland,’ Kaplan said. ‘They’ve announced it before, and they are moving forward in that regard.’ ”

A.T. Kearney, Booz Call Off Merger Talks [WSJ]
“A.T. Kearney Inc. and Booz & Co. called off discussions about a possible merger that would have given the two midsize firms greater scale in a highly competitive industry.

The two have flirted with each other multiple times over the years without completing a deal. The most recent talks occurred on and off over the past six months, says a person familiar with the matter.

The combined firm would still have been smaller than market leaders such as Deloitte LLP, McKinsey & Co. and Accenture Ltd in an industry where scale is increasingly important in wooing global business.”


Did Tax Ploy Help Saints Win Super Bowl? [Forbes]
If you feel so inclined, you could probably blame this on Reggie Bush but otherwise it’s probably due to some clever tax attorneys, “In a just-filed U.S. Tax Court lawsuit, the partnership owning the Saints acknowledges that it didn’t treat an $8.5 million annual payment from the state of Louisiana as income and therefore didn’t pay taxes on the sum. Rather, the team said the money was an addition to “working capital” and a nontaxable transaction.

The Internal Revenue Service insists the money should have been included in income by the franchise, owned for a quarter-century by auto dealer Thomas M. Benson Jr. The Tax Court case challenges that position.”

Pot Tax Helping Long Beach Plug Budget Deficit Faces Vote in California [Bloomberg]
“The city council of Long Beach, California, voted last night to pursue taxes on medical marijuana dispensaries, part of what may become a wave of communities turning to such proceeds to plug budget deficits.

The Los Angeles suburb with a population of almost 500,000 scheduled a public hearing on the drug levy for Aug. 3. If the council later approves the wording, a ballot initiative establishing a 5 percent tax on the city’s 35 dispensaries could go to voters in November, according to Lori Ann Farrell, Long Beach’s director of financial management.”

IRS Disbars CPA for Relying on Client’s Income and Expense Numbers [Tax Lawyer’s Blog]
How much due diligence should a tax preparer perform to be comfortable with their clients numbers?

Ex-Qwest Accountant Says SEC Should Be Sanctioned [CBS4]
“The SEC has said [James] Kozlowski hasn’t shown that it acted in bad faith. It has accused him of ‘theatrical conduct,’ including filing ‘numerous losing motions.’ Kozlowski’s attorneys dispute that.”

Accounting News Roundup: UBS Set to Release More Names as Standoff Ends; SEC Drops Cassano Inquiry; Levin, McCain Want Stock Option Gap Closed | 06.17.10

Swiss Parliament Backs UBS Pact [WSJ]
After a short standoff in Swiss parliament, Swiss lawmakers approved the agreement with the U.S. to turn over the remaining names of UBS clients, per the agreement between the two countries. The lower house dropped the referendum proposal that would have delayed the release of the names and likely caused UBS to miss the August deadline which would have resulted in new charges against the Swiss behemoth.

The Journal reports that a Swiss government is prepared to release an additional 1,200 names following the initial 500 released last year.

Lawmakers Weigh Changes tostor Protections [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Congress is kicking around the possibility of an office within the SEC to respond to whistleblower complaints. Brilliant!


McGladrey Mourns the Loss of Former Partner Ray Krause
Mr Krause passed away on Monday after 40 years of service to both McGladrey and the accounting profession. He served on many professional standard setting groups including AICPA’s Accounting Standards Executive Committee, the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s Emerging Issues Task Force, and on the Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Council. H was memorialized by his friend and colleague Jay Hanson, McGladrey’s National Director of Accounting:

Ray died unexpectedly yesterday. He was on vacation in Orlando with his nine-year-old grandson doing what he loved—visiting Disney World.

Before his retirement six years ago, Ray spent more than 40 years with McGladrey. He practiced in a number of locations, including a long stop in the national office as national director of accounting. He retired as partner in 2004 but continued to work for the national office part-time in Rockford, Ill.

During his long career, he served in a number of professional standard setting groups, including the AICPA’s Accounting Standards Executive Committee, the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s Emerging Issues Task Force, and on the Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Council.

Ray is best remembered for being the consummate professional and his easy-going style. He was very well respected in the accounting profession. Comments coming in from those that knew him include: “Ray was one of the true gentlemen of the accounting profession,” and “Ray was about as fine a human being as there is.”

He was a great mentor to many colleagues in the national office. His style of giving his complete attention to whomever he was talking to, providing understandable explanations for complex topics, probing deeply for all the facts, and his uncanny ability to help draw a conclusion with full understanding will be greatly missed. Ray could convey the message to someone that they were getting to the wrong conclusion with such delicacy that you didn’t even feel it, and felt good about the answer. He knew many of the “back stories” about how and why some of the most complex accounting standards came about, which is often important to understand what they mean.

Ray will be greatly missed by his daughter, son, four grandchildren and other family and friends. McGladrey and the accounting profession have also suffered a great loss.

Inquiry Ends on Cassano, Once of AIG [WSJ]
The SEC has dropped its investigation of Joseph Cassano, the former head of AIG’s Financial Products Unit, which means he won’t face civil charges in the unit’s role in financial crisis. The SEC is also declining to pursue charges against another AIGFP executive, Andrew Forster, who was also under scrutiny.

Senator sees big reporting gap in stock options [AP]
Senator Carl “Shitty Deal” Levin and new Snooki BFF John McCain “have proposed legislation that would require that the tax deduction for stock options not exceed the expense for options reported in financial statements.”

The two are a little rankled about the $52 billion gap between the amount of stock option expenses recognized for financial reporting purposes and the expense reported for tax purposes. Guess who’s getting the short end on that one?

Bank auditors were fully involved in developing report [FT]
John Hitchens, head of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) and a PwC Partner would like to dispel any notion that auditors will resist reform after taking it on the chin for the financial crisis:

As chairman of the ICAEW working group that produced the proposals, I would like to correct this impression.

Bank auditors from the six largest audit firms were fully involved in developing the report and supportive of all its recommendations, including the proposal that banks develop summary risk statements which auditors would then give comfort over.

Feel better?

U.K. Scraps FSA in Biggest Bank Overhaul Since 1997 [Bloomberg]
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne will do away with the Financial Services Authority, replacing it with three new regulatory bodies and giving most of its oversight powers to the Bank of England.

Intuit Works to Restore Online Access [WSJ]
Any individuals or small businesses that use TurboTax, Quicken and QuickBooks have been in a world of hurt as online access has been down, down, down. “Some Intuit websites were beginning to come back online late Wednesday afternoon,” according to an Intuit spokesperson. The situation is fluid.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac to delist from NYSE [CNN]
Meant to mention this yesterday since it was the DoD but you know how it goes. Anyway, see you another life FNM and FRE.

Accounting News Roundup: UK Launches Probe of E&Y’s Final Lehman Audit; Revolving Door at SEC Scrutinized; Swiss Upper House Rejects Referendum | 06.16.10

UK watchdog launches Lehman audit probe [Reuters]
The UK’s Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB), investigative and disciplinary body for accountants, has started an investigation into the Ernst & Young’s final audit of Lehman Brothers’ UK operations for the year ending November 30, 2007.

E&Y, completely familiar with this drill, is sticking to their guns, “Ernst & Young’s audit opinion stated that Lehman’s financial statements for that year were fairly presented in accordance with the relevant accounting standards, and we remain of that view.”


SEC ‘Revolving Door’ Under Review [WSJ]
Currently, the SEC does not have a cooling off period for former staffers that take a position with a private firm. Former staffers (i.e. lower-level employees) need only to provide a written letter disclosing the fact that they will be representing their new employer in an investigation.

The Journal reports that Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) announced on Tuesday that an investigation into the practice had recently been launched by the Inspector General David Kotz, “[W]e are currently conducting an investigation of allegations very recently brought to our attention that a prominent law firm’s significant ties with the SEC, specifically, the prevalence of SEC attorneys leaving the agency to join this particular law firm, led to the SEC’s failure to take appropriate actions in a matter involving the law firm,” Mr Kotz said.

The Journal reports that law firm in question “could not be determined.”

There have been several instances of quick transitions of former Commission staffers to new representing their new firms, including the most recent example of an attorney leaving the Division of Trading and Markets for the Chicago-based high frequency trading firm Getco, LLC and an accountant from the enforcement division who represented his new employer in a nonpublic investigation.

IRS hatches new assault on ‘Survivor’ [Tax Watchdog]
Thanks reality TV gods, Richard Hatch is still in our lives. He still owes $1.7 million in taxes from 2000 and 2001.

The CAE’s real challenge – ethics, courage, and complacency [IIA/Marks on Governance]
Norman Marks responds to a commenter that believes that a Chief Audit Executive need not focus on auditing and communicating those results and risks but instead “be conscious of and responsive to management expectations,” and basically substantiate that internal audit isn’t a giant waste of money.

Mr Marks questions this notion in its entirety, “It’s fine to supplement essential assurance activities with the tangible value-adding programs…But, the assurance work has to be covered or (in my opinion) internal audit is failing to do its job. When that is a conscious decision, I have to question the ethics – and the courage – of the individuals involved.”

Swiss Upper House Rejects Call for Referendum on UBS Pact [WSJ]
The upper house in Swiss Parliament would like their counterparts in the lower house to leave their popular referendum idea wherever they found it. Presumably everyone understands that super secret Swiss banking as the world knows it is over and lower house is a little slow to catch on. They’re supposedly debating the referendum circa now.

Class Action Complaint against Amedisys uses Sarbanes-Oxley Act Corporate Governance Provisions to Battle Alleged Corporate Malfeasance [White Collar Fraud]
Amedisys got caught red-handed by the Wall St. Journal abusing the Medicare system and Sam Antar hopes that this is a sign of things to come:

The SEC rules under Sarbanes-Oxley for public company codes of ethics broadly define corporate malfeasance by senior financial officers, requires such companies to promptly report any misconduct, prohibits companies from ignoring any misconduct, and makes it relatively easy for investors to sue for misconduct.

Hopefully, more lawsuits will cite code of ethics violations by public company senior financial officers in the future.

Accounting News Roundup: UBS Deal Back on Track; Allen Stanford’s Circus Causes Problems for Co-Defendants; Zynga Lands $147 Million | 06.15.10

Swiss Parliament Backs UBS Pact [WSJ]
After telling U.S. and IRS to drop dead last week, the lower House of Swiss Parliament has approved the deal to turn over 4,450 names as part of UBS’ settlement involving their assistance to taxpayers in the U.S. evade their obligations through offshore accounts.

There’s one small problem remaining – the lower house wants to put the agreement to a popular referendum while the upper house in parliament is opposed to the idea. The two have until Friday to reconcile their differences, otherwise another vote will be necessary to settle the referendum issue.

The problem with the referendum is that it could take months for happen and it could cause the Swiss to miss the August deadline that it agreed to. This could lead to fresh charges against UBS and further extending a story that pretty much everyone has grown tired of.


Stanford’s Co-Defendants Try to Flee the ‘Circus’ [DealBook]
Stanford’s Chief Investment Officer, Chief Accounting Officer and Controller are all attempting to sever themselves from Al’s proceedings because he’s an absolute drama whore.

Former CIO Laura Pendergest-Holt’s motion to have her trial severed describes RAS’ conduct as ‘egregious and circus-like conduct,’ using the term “circus” at least eight times.

So while a circus is infinitely fun for the rest of us, it doesn’t really do co-conspirators any good when they are trying to get a fair trial.

Dealing With a Toxic Resumé [FINS]
How can you move past a job with a tax company like Stanford, Countrywide, Bear Stearns et al.? You might just want to GIVE UP (and that could be advisable if you were a perp) but there are some things you can do to wash away that taint on your resumé.

For starters don’t bad mouth the old company, even though they probably deserve it. Secondly, you might attach an addendum to your resumé in order to explain the whole sitch and you can always turn the situation into a positive by explaining how you’ve learned from working at such a lousy company.

Keep your chin up, you’ll be back to being a white collar working stiff in no time.

Duke boy dodges tax hazard [Tax Watchdog]
John Schneider, aka Bo Duke, and his wife owe California about $28,000 in back taxes. Turns out his old accountant left him ‘high and dry’ so he’s working it out with Arnie.

Zynga Receives $147 Million Investment From Japan’s Softbank [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Memo to Farmville Haters: it’s here to stay and there will be more to come.

IRS Accused of Being Sneaky Double-Crossing Tricksters

Who would have guessed that the IRS was capable of pulling the old switcheroo on confessed tax dodgers?

Apparently not some “former high-ranking tax officials” who are all bent out of shape because the IRS decided to prosecute their clients even though they came out of offshore tax haven land with their hands up.

A letter dated March 30 and signed by 32 lawyers, many of them former high-ranking tax officials now in private practice, said the IRS actions “smack of trickery.” They said that because the taxpayers had turned themselves in, they shouldn’t be prosecuted. The letter said heavy-handed treatment of some account holders could cause taxpayer confessions to “grind to a halt.”

The letter acknowledged the government’s long-held right to reject confessors if it already has their names or has opened an audit. But it argued that subjecting these taxpayers to rare public prosecutions would look like a double-cross. The writers also warned that if the government went ahead with prosecutions, it would radically change the “risk assessment” they offer their clients and lead to fewer voluntary disclosures.

So you acknowledge the right of the Feds to say ixnay on confessions of known tax scofflaws, plus one of Dougie’s deputies is quoted saying this: “The Service has been clear and consistent. We said that people already known to us were not good candidates,” and then you write a letter? The IRS has been attacked from the air, had suspicious packages dropped on their doorsteps and been blamed for suicides and you think a stern letter is going to sway them?

IRS Faulted for Prosecuting Confessed Evaders of Taxes [WSJ]

DOJ: You Bet Your A$$ We’re Going After More Offshore Tax Evaders

It appears that the offshore bank account crackdown tour is going straight through Asia, where DOJ senior tax attorney Kevin Downing gave a speech saying, “We expect over the next couple of years, in addition to the UBS cases, to have somewhere between 4,000 and 7,000 more cases coming to us with. These are from banks and governments cooperating.”

Obviously the UBS flogging was such a huge success that the DOJ/IRS figures they might as well keep a good thing going and is making a nice little swing through Asia to give them fair warning that they could be traipsing through their backyard very soon:

Singapore was one stop in a tour of Asian cities also including Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai by Downing and his U.S. Justice Department team. The tour featured meetings with financial and tax regulatory bodies and bankers discussing cross-border tax prosecutions.

He said that since the start of the U.S. crackdown on tax evasion, money has moved from the Caribbean to Switzerland and Asia.

Of course Mr Downing doesn’t want to get ugly saying, “he hoped the U.S. authorities would not have to conduct “UBS-style” probes,” but obviously that option is always on the table.

U.S. to probe thousands more offshore tax evaders [Reuters]

Offshore Account Holdouts Better Start Coming Up with Excuses

Thumbnail image for IRS_logo-thumb-150x140.jpgThe jig is finally up for 500 UBS customers. The Swiss bank has notified the first group of the 4,000 some-odd clients that UBS said they would turn over to the IRS. This is one of those, “Have you ever had to deliver bad news to someone and if so, how did you handle it?” moments.
The good news for you holdouts is that you can still appeal:

Those taxpayers whose names have been selected have 30 days to appeal to Switzerland’s administrative court. Um, good luck with that. Part of the criteria for determining whether to turn over the names involved instances of “clear fraudulent actions” including the production of false documents. I’m not sure you could argue your way out of that one – even in Switzerland.

Never mind. You people are screwed.
UBS Set To Turn Over First Set of Names [Tax Girl]

The IRS Seriously Isn’t Kidding Around About Your Last Chance to Declare Your Offshore Income

IRS_logo-thumb-150x140.jpgThe IRS has decided to give offshore tax scofflaws almost an extra month to rethink their cheater-cheater pumpkin-eater ways, extending the deadline to October 15th from September 23rd. According to the Service, this will be the absolute, final, drop dead chance for offshore account holders to come forward.
Apparently the IRS means biz-nass as 3,000 account holders have already come forward to declare their offshore income. This is compared to less than the 100 taxpayers that came forward all of last year.
You could safely assume that the public flogging of UBS in front of the entire world helped get the IRS’s point across. So now the extension of the deadline seems to be a friendly reminder that you have ONE LAST CHANCE to play ball.
Plus, the Service must have come to their senses and realized that a tax deadline on the 23rd really doesn’t seem to make a damn bit of sense.
IRS extends tax amnesty deadline to October 15 [Reuters via Tax Prof Blog]

The IRS is Warm and Cuddly Again

IRS_logo-thumb-150x140.jpgObviously not wanting to ruin its grandmotherly image, the IRS has announced that will extend its deadline for certain taxpayers to submit their “Report for Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts” or FBAR.
The administrative relief is for “taxpayers with signature authority over, but no financial interest in, a foreign financial account, and taxpayers with a financial interest in, or signature authority over, a foreign commingled fund.”
Perhaps realizing that putting the gun to the collective head of taxpayers that have foreign bank accounts isn’t the best approach or coming to the conclusion that the drop dead filing date of September 23rd just didn’t make any damn sense, the new deadline is now June 30, 2010.
IRS Extends FBAR Filing Deadline Again [Web CPA]

IRS Getting Back to Scaring People into Tax Compliance

IRS_logo-thumb-150x140.jpgIf you’ve got a offshore bank account and are less than with it when it comes to tax compliance, it might be advisable that you talk to your accountant.
The IRS, who is becoming increasingly less cuddly under the Obama Administration, is stepping up its scrutiny of Americans with income derived from offshore accounts greater than $10,000.
However, because the Service doesn’t want to come off as a big meanie, it is giving everyone late to the game until September 23rd to file their Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR). If you’re the type that doesn’t concern yourself with such matters, here are some things you can look forward to:

Those who have inadvertently failed to report offshore income, even just a few hundred dollars, could be subject to a $10,000-a-year penalty going back several years. For those the IRS considers willful tax evaders, it is much worse. The IRS can impose a penalty of $100,000, or one half the value of the account, whichever is greater, per year.

Those of you that have been scofflaws on your offshore accounts, don’t fret. The IRS is allowing to confess your sins and report yourselves under their “voluntary disclosure program”. However, you will still have to be investigated by the Service’s criminal division which sounds about as pleasant as a rectal exam in front of all your friends.
IRS Gets Tougher on Offshore Tax Evaders [WSJ]

UBS Closer to Getting the McCarthy Treatment

IRS_logo-thumb-150x140.jpgIf you’ve got a Swiss bank account, here’s hoping you opened it because it was convenient for your monthly skiing/Toblerone getaway.
The U.S. and Swiss governments have agreed to share more tax information in order to crack down on all the tax dodgers out there that send their money offshore. The timing of this agreement is is especially diabolical because the IRS is currently trying to get Swiss bank behemoth UBS to name names of over 50,000 American clients.
Hearings in Miami are scheduled for next month to see if the names can be released, however, the Swiss have stated that this may violate Swiss law of double-secret-no-tattling-on-clients.
Ultimately, the Swiss Federal Council and Parliament will decide if the new agreement is kosh but judging by the Obama Administration’s hard-on for closing tax loopholes, they’ll probably play ball.

U.S. and Switzerland to Share More Tax Data
[DealBook/NYT]