Offshore tax havens

This is Your Most Recent Last Chance to Bring That Offshore Money Home and Come Clean with the IRS

Doug Shulman believes in third chances: IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, who announced the program’s renewal Monday, said previous efforts in 2009 and 2011 resulted in the collection so far of $4.4 billion from 33,000 people. He said the government could gain several times that amount, as a result of both the newest initiative plus people […]

DOJ Curious to Know if Credit Suisse Pulled a UBS

That is, helped American clients stash money offshore.

Credit Suisse said Friday it had been notified that it was the object of an investigation by the United States Department of Justice, citing “a broader industry inquiry.” The Swiss bank said that it had previously received subpoenas and other information requests from the Justice Department and other government agencies regarding cross-border services that its private banking arm provided to American clients.

As you may recall, the situation for UBS didn’t turn out so well and they sorta went back on that whole “secrecy” thing. Unfortch for Credit Suisse, they’ll probably have to snitch too:

On Friday, a court in Lausanne upheld the Swiss government decision to force UBS to hand over client data, citing “virtually uncontrollable economic repercussions for Switzerland” if it had not done so. That decision implies that Credit Suisse, too, may be ordered to surrender information about customers’ accounts to American authorities.

Credit Suisse Discloses U.S. Inquiry Into Private Banking [DealBook]
Earlier: DOJ: You Bet Your A$$ We’re Going After More Offshore Tax Evaders

(UPDATE 2) News Corp. Appears to Be a Big Fan of Offshore Tax Havens

Sure, GE may have the “best tax law firm” in house but the boys and girls working for Rupes seem to have a few tricks of their own. David Cay Johnston reports:

News Corp. has 152 subsidiaries in tax havens, including 62 in the British Virgin Islands and 33 in the Caymans. Among the hundred largest U.S. companies, only Citigroup and Morgan Stanley have more tax haven subsidiaries than News Corp., a 2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office study found.

News Corp. had nearly $7 billion permanently invested offshore in 2009, money on which it does not have to pay taxes unless it brings the money back to the United States. Meanwhile, it can use that money as collateral for loans in the United States, where interest paid is a tax-deductible expense.

This and other tax planning strategies result in a 20% tax rate for the company. And not a single phone hacked!

[via Reuters]

UPDATE:
Via NPR’s The Two Way news blog, Reuters has posted this statement:

Please be advised that the David Cay Johnston column published on Tuesday stating that Rupert Murdoch’s U.S.-based News Corp made money on income taxes is wrong and has been withdrawn. News Corp’s filings show the company changed reporting conventions in its 2007 annual report when it reversed the way it showed positive and negative numbers. A new column correcting and explaining the error in more detail will be issued shortly.

As of now, Johnston’s post remains unchanged and what I blockquoted above doesn’t seem to be in dispute but the situation appears to be fluid.

UPDATE 2:
Here’s a portion from Johnston’s new column:

Readers, I apologize. The premise of my debut column for Reuters, on News Corp’s taxes, was wrong, 100 percent dead wrong.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp did not get a $4.8 billion tax refund for the past four years, as I reported. Instead, it paid that much in cash for corporate income taxes for the years 2007 through 2010 while earning pre-tax profits of $10.4 billion.

For the first time in my 45-year-old career I am writing a skinback. That is what journalists call a retraction of the premise of a piece, as in peeling back your skin and feeling the pain. I will do all I can to make sure everyone who has read or heard secondary reports based on my column also learns the facts and would appreciate the help of readers in that cause.

Johnston goes on to explain in detail how the error occurred. He also states that a number of the facts originally reported, including the number of News Corp. subsidiaries in tax haven (that we blockquoted above), remain.

IRS Announces New ‘Come Out with Your Hands Up Holding Your Offshore Bank Account Number’ Program

Back in 2009, the IRS ran a relatively successful program that encouraged those with offshore bank accounts to cop to their shady tax evading ways and all would be forgiven…with the exception of a small penalty of the assets stashed out of sight. This particular program was primarily focused on UBS customers and for those not willing to play ball, the IRS and DOJ put the screws on the Swiss bank and got them to name names.

The IRS had been hinting that maybe Offshore Amnesty 2.0 was coming and today, they made it official.

From the Times:

The Internal Revenue Service announced a new initiative on Tuesday intended to lure tax evaders, but with stiffer penalties than those offered by a previous program. Under the initiative, Americans with hidden offshore accounts have until Aug. 31 to come forward voluntarily and report the accounts to the I.R.S. in exchange for penalties that, while below what they would ordinarily pay, are still higher than those offered in an earlier amnesty program.

The good news is that the IRS swears – SWEARS! – that you’ll come to no harm, in the criminal sense:

The program makes clear that Americans who come forward will not to face prosecution for tax evasion — something tax lawyers say was more of an open question under the previous program. “When a taxpayer truthfully, timely and completely complies with all provisions of the voluntary disclosure practice, the I.R.S will not recommend criminal prosecution to the Department of Justice,” the I.R.S. said.

So unless the possibility of jail time sounds inviting, we suggest you get on this. We’re all dreaming of August right now.

I.R.S. Offers New Amnesty Deal for Offshore Accounts [NYT]

IRS Commish: There’s a Big Difference Between Hiding Money Offshore and Sophisticated International Tax Planning

In a speech before the 23rd Annual Institute on Current Issues in International Taxation, Washington, DC, Doug Shulman (link not yet available on the website) explained how rich dudes schlepping money to Switzerland (but not any more!) or Hong Kong is not even close to the same thing as “Google’s Irrationally Exuberant Tax Strategy.”

As I have said before, I draw a sharp distinction between rooting out individuals hiding their money in foreign tax havens and the IRS and Treasury creating ground rules for multinational corporations operating in a global environment.

It’s no secret that multinational corporations engage in sophisticated international tax planning. We recognize that much of this is perfectly legal and many businesses are trying to get it right. Of course, some are pushing the envelope too far and it’s here that we have issues. Our goal is to differentiate between the two; to be on top of our game in this analysis; and to ensure corporations are compliant with the tax law and stay compliant.

IRS Commish: Gird Your Loins, Offshore Bank Havens

Yesterday we mentioned that the IRS’s new Global High Wealth Industry Group was putting the screws to the rich via “Audits from Hell.” Today, the Service announced that they were withdrawing the federal court summons against UBS since the Swiss Bank provide 4,000 more names of American clients who had parked funds offshore.

With the announcement, IRS Commish Doug Shulman put those 4k lucky ducks on notice that they should prepare for their personal audit inferno:

The IRS on Tuesday withdrew its Miami federal court summons seeking identities of suspected U.S. tax dodgers at UBS after receiving more than 4,000 names as required under an August 2009 agreement that also included the Swiss government. Each of those people expect what Shulman called a “full-blown audit” and many are likely to be charged criminally.

But that’s not all! Clearly, not satisfied with the example made of UBS, the Commish made a promise to everyone that the Service’s offshore bank raids were just getting started.

This is the close of what I call the first chapter,” IRS chief Doug Shulman told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “We are actively pursuing a number of other banks and promoters and advisers.”

Shulman declined to get into specifics about ongoing offshore tax investigations, but said: “It’s not just about Switzerland, this is about multiple countries and multiple institutions.”

Accounting News Roundup: Senate Will Get to Financial Overhaul Post-July 4; Google to Cover Extra Health Benefit Costs for Gay Couples; Barry Wins a Stevie | 07.01.10

House Vote Sends Finance Overhaul to Senate [WSJ]
“The House agreed Wednesday to a sweeping rewrite of the nation’s financial regulations, moving the initiative one step closer to becoming law.

Focus now shifts to the Senate, where questions linger about whether Democrats have nailed down enough support from the handful of Republicans needed to overcome a likely filibuster. The Senate won’t take up the bill until after the July 4 recess, creating an awkward pause in which the bill’s opponents will have one last chance to derail it.”

Google to Add Pay to Cover a Tax for Same-Sex Benefits [NYT]
“On Thursday, Google is going to begin covering a cost that gay and lesbian employees must pay when their partners receive domestic partner health benefits, largely to compensate them for an extra tax that heterosexual married couples do not pay. The increase will be retroactive to the beginning of the year.

‘It’s a fairly cutting edge thing to do,’ said Todd A. Solomon, a partner in the employee benefits department of McDermott Will & Emery, a law firm in Chicago, and author of ‘Domestic Partner Benefits: An Employer’s Guide.’

Google is not the first company to make up for the extra tax. At least a few large employers already do. But benefits experts say Google’s move could inspire its Silicon Valley competitors to follow suit, because they compete for the same talent.”


Senate chairman starts probe of Transocean’s taxes [AP]
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) would like to know whether Transocean’s move offshore was an exploitation of U.S. tax law, “The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee is launching an investigation into the tax practices of Transocean Ltd., owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, leading to the massive oil spill.”

Sadly, this will lead nowhere since exploitation ≠ illegal in this case. Deplorable? Yes. Tax malfeasance? No. Political pandering? Absolutely.

Deloitte CEO Barry Salzberg Wins Executive of the Year – Services at the 8th Annual American Business Awards [PR Newswire]
It’s a Stevie award! BS beat out Jeffrey Bezos, chairman, president and CEO, Amazon.com; Dominic Barton, managing director of McKinsey & Company; and Joseph Neubauer, chairman and CEO of ARAMARK for the Stevie.

In his own words, “I am very honored by this recognition, which truly is a testament to Deloitte’s progress and the industry-leading work of our more than 40,000 people in the United States. Although we have faced challenging economic times in the past few years, Deloitte’s diverse portfolio of quality services and investment in talent continue to drive our business and differentiate us in the marketplace. We are eager to approach the opportunities that await us and our clients in the economic upturn.”

GAAP and IFRS: Six Degrees of Separation [CFO]
That is, six major differences between the two sets of rules that will have to be ironed out. Namely: error correction, LIFO, reversal of impairments, PP&E valuation, component depreciation and development costs. After that, this convergence thing will be a breeze.