The IRS is aggressively using intelligence gathered from the agency’s Offshore Voluntary Compliance Program to study the movement of undisclosed funds abroad and to deter tax avoidance, an IRS official said February 18.
“When [taxpayers] come in and tell us about their offshore account in one bank in one country, they may tell us about another account in another bank in another country and about the bankers they used,” said Rebecca Sparkman, Acting Executive Director Investigations and Enforcement Operations Division of the IRS at the American Bar Association Section of Taxation meeting in San Diego. “As you can imagine we start looking at all that intelligence and it points the way for the next criminal investigation.”
Although her comments had undertones of the recent indictment of Wegelin & Co., Switzerland’s oldest private bank, she declined to speak directly on any specific matter. The bank has been charged with aiding tax offenders move their undisclosed accounts from UBS.
“We want to assure you that we are reviewing all the information that comes in from your clients to match up [and provide direction on] where we should look next,” she said.
She cautioned practitioners to be fully truthful when bringing their clients into compliance.
“Please be fully, fully truthful,” she told the audience. “Because there may be those folks that are tempted to only disclose that account in that one bank that they think we know about in that one country because they think we don’t know about [an account] somewhere else. But guess what? They come in, they come through the whole program, we get their name on a list for some other bank, some other country, all bets are off! Now they are facing criminal investigation because they were not fully truthful.”
Sparkman stressed that the time to come forward with all offshore account information is at the time a voluntary disclosure is made, not subsequently.
“When you walk in the door, that is the time to be fully truthful,” she said. “Don’t be hiding anything else.”