OVDP International Tax Lawyer: Swiss Cantonal Banks Enter US Program for Banks

As an OVDP International Tax Lawyer, I continue to point out the centrality of the current U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) The Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters for Swiss Banks (the “Program”) to the global international tax compliance efforts of the United States. As previous explained, the Program basically operates as a voluntary disclosure program for Swiss banks, similar to the US Internal Revenue Service’s Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) for U.S. taxpayers holding undisclosed offshore accounts. The DOJ promises that, in return for providing disclosure of the accounts held by U.S. taxpayers and, in some case, paying various penalties, the qualifying Swiss banks can avoid U.S. criminal prosecution.

Cantonal Swiss Banks deserve a special attention from U.S. taxpayers precisely because they tend to be smaller, more involved in local life and (prior to the Program) would have been least likely to be concerned with the U.S. tax compliance. Yet, as it is explained below, these Swiss banks are actively participating in the Program. U.S taxpayers with undisclosed accounts in Switzerland are now faced with an even more immediate impact on their U.S. tax compliance. It is very important that they seek advice from an experienced OVDP International Tax Lawyer found at Sherayzen Law Office.

OVDP International Tax Lawyer: Switzerland Cantonal Banks Enter the Program

According to recent news reports, half of Switzerland’s publicly-backed cantonal banks (which are either majority or entirely-owned by the Swiss cantons) have announced they will join the Program. In general, many of these banks are protected by a full state guarantee (each respective canton has a subsidiary responsibility its bank’s liabilities). Switzerland has twenty-four cantonal banks in total, serving Switzerland’s twenty-six cantons. As of the end of 2013, the following cantonal banks have stated they will enter the Program:

Aargau (Aargauische Kantonalbank) (AKB)
Appenzell (Appenzeller Kantonalbank) (APPKB)
Geneva (Banque Cantonale de Geneve (BCGE)
Glarus (Glarner Kantonalbank) (GLKB)
Graubünden (Graubundner Kantonalbank) (GKB)
Lucerne (Luzerner Kantonalbank) (LUKB)
Nidwalden (Nidwaldner Kantonabank) (NWKB)
Obwalden (Obwaldner Kantonalbank (OWKB)
Schwyz (Schwyzer Kantonalbank) (SZKB)
St. Gallen (St. Galler Kantonalbank) (SGKB), along with its subsidiaries Hyposwiss Privatbank Zurich AG and Hyposwiss Private Bank Geneve SA)
Vaud (Banque Cantonale Vaudoise (BCV), along with its subsidiary Piquet Galland & Cie SA)
Zug (Zuger Kantonalbank) (ZugerKB)

At least eight of twelve cantonal banks have opted to apply under “Category 2” for Swiss banks likely to accounts held by US persons (see here for more information about this category), which could result in substantial fines, but absolve bank officials from criminal liabilities. Zuger Kantonalbank, for example, stated that it would apply under this category even though it claimed it did not actively seek US customers.

As of the end of 2013, four cantonal banks stated that will enroll in the Program under Category 4 for essentially local Swiss banks that are unlikely to have assets consisting of undeclared U.S.-taxpayer accounts. Swiss banks applying under Category 3 or 4 have a limited time available between July-October, 2014 in which to notify the US as to whether they will enter the Program.

OVDP International Tax Lawyer: Two Cantonal Banks Excluded from the Program

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) previously launched investigations against two other Swiss cantonal banks, such as Basler Kantonalbank (Basel) and Zürcher Kantonalbank (Zurich). These banks are classified as Category 1 banks and will not be allowed to enroll in the Program.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Legal Help with Undisclosed Swiss Accounts

U.S. taxpayers who either hold or previously held undisclosed bank accounts at any of the Swiss cantonal banks eligible for enrollment in the Program, or any bank already under investigation, are advised to seek competent and experienced legal assistance. U.S. taxpayers will likely face substantial civil and potential criminal penalties if they continue to hold undisclosed accounts or if their cases are not handled properly. At Sherayzen Law Office, PLLC, we can help with your all of your voluntary disclosure issues.