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Disclosure of Swiss Bank Staff Details to the IRS Blocked by Swiss Court

On January 3, 2018, a decision of the Swiss Federal Court (the nation’s highest court) dated December 18, 2017, was published, prohibiting automatic disclosure of the Swiss bank staff details to the IRS and the US DOJ. Let’s analyze this decision in more detail.

Disclosure of Swiss Bank Staff Details: History of the Case

The lawsuit decided in 2017 is not the first time that the Swiss Federal Court is placing limits on the IRS ability to obtain information from Switzerland with respect to Swiss citizens. Already in 2016, the Court ruled that a Swiss bank could not disclose to the US authorities the names of financial advisers who helped US taxpayers set up secret Swiss bank accounts (“facilitators”). The reasoning was based on the inadequate level of data protection in the United States which is far below the Swiss Data Protection Act.

It should be emphasized, however, that in the same opinion, the Court also said that the names of facilitators could be disclosed to the US government despite the data protection concerns if the failure to do so would deepen the legal dispute between Switzerland and a the United States and harm the Swiss reputation as a financial center.

The lawsuit with respect to disclosure of Swiss bank staff details was initiated by an unnamed US taxpayer who lived in Switzerland. He filed a lawsuit to prevent the Swiss equivalent of the IRS, the Federal Tax Administration (“FTA”) from disclosing to the US government the name of third parties who were involved or might have been involved with his financial affairs. The lower Swiss court agreed with the taxpayer.

Automatic Disclosure of Swiss Bank Staff Details to the IRS Prohibited

The Swiss Federal Court also partially agreed with the unnamed US taxpayer, stating that FTA could not automatically turn over to the US government the names of Swiss bankers and others who might have helped US tax residents in evading their US tax reporting obligations. The reasoning behind the decision was based on relevance.

Basically, the Could stated that the Swiss bank staff details in this particular case were not necessary to the US government to prove its tax evasion case against the unnamed US account holder. “What is needed . . . is information about the existence and intervention of these third parties, not their identities,” the Court said.

The Court basically stated that administrative assistance requests should not be used for indirect purposes. In other words, the IRS cannot use such requests “in order to obtain information about the identities of alleged accomplices of the taxpayer . . . that could be subject to criminal prosecution if this information is not relevant to elucidate the tax situation of the same taxpayer.”

Obviously, this reasoning does not offer any decisive protection for Swiss bank staff details. It appears that, if the information would have been necessary for the US tax authorities to prove its tax evasion case, the transfer of Swiss Bank Staff details would have been permitted. Additionally, the decision might have come in a bit late as hundreds of documents with the Swiss bankers’ names have already been turned over to the IRS.

Swiss Bank Staff Case Offers No Protection to US Taxpayer’s Data Transfer

Moreover, the Court’s decision offered no hope for blocking the transfer of US taxpayers’ information. While the Court blocked the transfer of the Swiss bank staff details, it still allowed the FTA to provide to the US government the US account holder’s information. This means that the transfer of data concerning US tax residents from Switzerland to the United States will continue unimpeded.

Swiss Bank Staff Case Offers Insight Into IRS’ Next Target in Switzerland

This case also offers a good insight into the current IRS strategy concerning Switzerland. It appears that the IRS is compiling statistics concerning Swiss bank staff who might have helped US taxpayers evade their US tax reporting obligations. Most likely, the focus is on the bankers who provided this help regularly to a large amount of US taxpayers.

Sherayzen Law Office will continue to observe the IRS latest moves in Switzerland.

New Irish Software to Combat Offshore Tax Evasion | Tax Lawyer News

The Irish Revenue is expanding its tax enforcement capabilities through new Irish software. This new Irish software will provide the Irish Revenue with a unique type of a multilateral analysis of a taxpayer in order to combat offshore tax evasion. This is definitely a new development in international tax enforcement and it is the one likely to be followed by other nations, including the United States.

New Irish Software Allows a Brand-New Versatile Analysis of a Taxpayer’s Life

The unique feature of the new Irish software is its multilateral analysis of a taxpayer. First of all, the software will match the data provided by taxpayer (or by other national institutions) with the data collected from other jurisdictions under the automatic information exchange agreements. So far, this is similar to the IRS FATCA software.

However, the new Irish software goes further: it will analyze the taxpayer’s social media accounts, statements, pictures and so on to see if the taxpayer’s posts about his lifestyle match the information provided by the taxpayer to the Irish Revenue. It appears that there are other features of the software which are not even disclosed to the public that also go beyond the traditional analysis of tax and financial documents.

In other words, the new software will do the data analysis that will allow the Irish Revenue to build a complete profile of Irish taxpayers and their activities. This is a very bold and creative approach to tax enforcement, but, as discussed below, it is completely within the logic of the recent trends in international tax enforcement.

The New Irish Software Comes After the Closure of the Irish Voluntary Disclosure Program

The new Irish software is being introduced by the Irish Revenue just about six months after the closure of the Irish voluntary disclosure program. The Irish Revenue received 2,734 disclosures with a declared value of almost 84 million before the program’s deadline for offshore disclosures on May 4, 2017.

Since the voluntary disclosure program is closed, the noncompliant taxpayers who will be identified by the new Irish software are likely to face substantially higher penalties.

Lessons to be Drawn from the New Irish Software With Respect to Future US Tax Enforcement

This latest development in Irish tax enforcement is indicative of the trend of using comprehensive data analytics through smarter, more aggressive software with elements of Artificial Intelligence to identify noncompliant taxpayers. This is the trend that will undoubtedly influence US tax enforcement. In fact, the IRS already has an advanced tax software to analyze FATCA data (which, right now, is filled with errors and not very effective). Moreover, the IRS has also stated that it will develop its own AI software to identify US international tax noncompliance.

Furthermore, it seems that there is a worldwide trend toward harsher international tax enforcement in lieu of continuation of the existing voluntary disclosure programs. The fact that the Irish Revenue unveiled new software after the closure of the voluntary disclosure program is also not an accident, but a planned course of events.

We can already observe the same trend here in the United States. The IRS is stepping up FBAR audits while the DOJ (US Department of Justice) is dramatically increasing its FBAR-related litigation. Additionally, the IRS has recently announced its intentions to seriously modify and even close its own voluntary disclosure programs.

The combination of all of these trends means that noncompliant US taxpayers are at an extremely high risk of detection at the time when most of their voluntary disclosure options are being closed or significantly modified. This is why this is the critically-important time for these taxpayers to explore their voluntary disclosure options while they are still available. Failure to do so now may lead to extremely unfavorable tax consequences, including the imposition of substantially higher IRS penalties.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Your Offshore Voluntary Disclosure

If you have undisclosed foreign assets (including foreign bank and financial accounts) or foreign income, please contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Our international tax law firm has successfully helped hundred of US taxpayers with their offshore voluntary disclosures. We can help You!

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