With the DOJ Program for Swiss Banks raging in Switzerland, an obvious question arises about whether this program would be applicable in other places, most prominently, to undisclosed bank accounts in Israel. It is my opinion, as an international tax attorney, that the DOJ will attempt to apply its Swiss Program for Banks to other places, including undisclosed bank accounts in Israel.
Background Information on the Program for Swiss Banks
On August 29, 2013, the DOJ announced a new initiative – The Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters for Swiss Banks (Program) – which is intended to allow Swiss banks to bring themselves into compliance with DOJ requirements and avoid any US enforcement action in exchanged for detailed disclosures and, in some cases, the payment of monetary penalties.
In essence, this is a voluntary disclosure program, only for Swiss Banks. Under the Program, the Swiss banks are required to turn over a vast amount of extensive and detailed information regarding its US account holders, including list the value of accounts greater than $50,000 during three separate periods; on an account by account basis, the highest value during the period beginning August 1, 2008; the number of persons affiliated with the account and their functions; whether the account was held in a structure (a foreign corporation, foundation, etc.), et cetera.
In return, the banks that participate in the Program can use it to effectively close-out any potential U.S. compliance issues and prevent future criminal prosecution of the banks.
Benefits of the Program for the IRS
The Program offers tremendous benefits to the IRS; I will just list the chief long-term benefits. First and foremost, it is unrealistic for the IRS and the DOJ to investigate every single bank in Switzerland by itself. In essence, the Program allows the IRS to achieve this goal by using the banks themselves to investigate whether they are compliance with U.S. tax laws.
Second, the Program will provide the IRS with a tremendous amount of information regarding the schemes and techniques used by non-compliant U.S. taxpayers and their advisors (as well as the identify of these advisors). This will allow the IRS to develop the procedures to quickly identifying and investigating future potential non-compliance schemes.
Finally, the Program has the potential to identify all of the non-compliance U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed accounts in Switzerland as well as to trace whether these funds were taken out of Switzerland and moved elsewhere, especially to undisclosed bank accounts in Israel (which is already a major target for the DOJ).
As I mentioned before, there are many more other advantageous to the program; among them: establishing the precedent for future use of a similar program in another country, focusing the investigation on particular individuals and banks, and the high publicity of the program should force banks in other countries to step-up their compliance with U.S. tax laws (in case a similar approach is adopted in their countries).
The Program Is Ready to be Applied to Other Countries, including Israel
Because of its tremendous utility to the DOJ and the IRS, I believe it is highly possible that the Program will be applied in other countries, though, most likely in a modified form. The exact form of the Program is likely to be dependent on the type of the FATCA treaty that was signed between the United States and the target country as well as the target country’s government and its willingness to give in to the U.S. demands for transparency.
It is also not inconceivable that the Program will be eventually applied worldwide so that every non-compliant bank would have an opportunity to enter it. However, it is perhaps a bit premature to discuss when such a program would be enacted and what shape it would take.
The likelihood that the Program would be applied to undisclosed bank accounts in Israel is very high. First, Israel is already a focus of several DOJ investigations. Second, the IRS can already confirm (and will find more evidence of this happening after the banks submit the required information under the Program) that numerous bank accounts were closed in Switzerland by Israeli-Americans and moved elsewhere. Finally, it appears that the Israeli government would likely cooperate with the U.S. government in this area.
High Risks for U.S. Persons with Undisclosed Bank Accounts in Israel
At this point, the situation has grown intolerably dangerous for U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed bank accounts in Israel. Not only are they already potentially subject to the IRS investigation, but, if the Program is applied in Israel, there will be no safe haven for non-compliant U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed bank accounts in Israel.
In such a situation, the most prudent step for U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed bank accounts in Israel would be to retain an international tax attorney experienced in offshore voluntary disclosures in order to conduct some type of a voluntary disclosure before it is too late.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with Undisclosed Bank Accounts in Israel
If you have undisclosed bank accounts in Israel, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office to conduct your offshore voluntary disclosure. Our firm consists of international tax professionals highly experienced in the offshore voluntary disclosure matters. We will thoroughly analyze your case, determine the available voluntary disclosure options for your offshore assets, and meticulously implement the chosen plan of action (including preparation of all legal documents and tax forms). Contact Sherayzen Law Office