On August 20, 2015, the US Department of Justice announced another Swiss Bank Program update – Bank Zweiplus AG (Bank Zweiplus) and Banca dello Stato del Cantone Ticino (Banca Stato) have reached resolutions under the department’s Swiss Bank Program.
The Swiss Bank Program, which was announced on August 29, 2013, provides a path for Swiss banks to resolve potential criminal liabilities in the United States. Swiss banks eligible to enter the program were required to advise the department by December 31, 2013, that they had reason to believe that they had committed tax-related criminal offenses in connection with undeclared U.S.-related accounts. Banks already under criminal investigation related to their Swiss-banking activities and all individuals were expressly excluded from the program.
Swiss Bank Program Update: Bank Zweiplus Background and Non-Prosecution Agreement
As part of its Swiss Bank Program Update, the DOJ provided various background information regarding Bank Zweiplus. The Bank was founded in July 2008 as a retail bank based in Zurich. Offices located in Geneva and Basel, Switzerland, were closed in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Since Aug. 1, 2008, Bank Zweiplus maintained and serviced 44 U.S.-related accounts with an aggregate value of approximately $12.1 million.
Bank Zweiplus was aware that U.S. taxpayers have a legal duty to report to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) their ownership of bank accounts outside the United States and to pay taxes on income earned in such accounts. Nevertheless, in disregard of U.S. laws, the bank provided a variety of traditional Swiss banking services that assisted some U.S. taxpayers in concealing their undeclared accounts. For example, Bank Zweiplus maintained numbered accounts and accounts held in the name of structures which were effectively owned or controlled by U.S. persons, including structures in the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas.
Bank Zweiplus cooperated with the department during its participation in the Swiss Bank Program and encouraged its U.S. clients to enter the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (nowclosed). Bank Zweiplus will pay a penalty of $1.089 million.
Swiss Bank Program Update: Banca Stato Background and Non-Prosecution Agreement
As part of its Swiss Bank Program Update, the DOJ provided various background information regarding Banca Stato. Banca Stato was established in 1915 and is headquartered in Bellinzona, Switzerland. Banca Stato was aware that U.S. taxpayers had a legal duty to report to the IRS and pay taxes on the basis of all of their income, including income earned in accounts that the U.S. taxpayers maintained at the bank. Despite this, the bank opened and serviced accounts for U.S. clients who the bank knew or had reason to know were not complying with their U.S. income tax obligations.
During the applicable period, Banca Stato maintained and serviced 187 U.S.-related accounts with an aggregate maximum balance of approximately $137 million. Banca Stato will pay a penalty of $3.393 million.
Impact of this Swiss Bank Program Update on US Taxpayers
Starting August 20, 2015, noncompliant U.S. accountholders at Bank Zweiplus and Banca Stato must now pay that 50 percent penalty to the IRS if they wish to enter the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.
Follow this link to the DOJ website for more information on this Swiss Bank Program Update.