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G-20 Stamps Out Tax Havens

OECDThe fallout from the recent tax evasion settlement with UBS is reverberating throughout the G-20 community.  As we reported back in October,  the French Governments action directing banks to close branches and subsidiaries in non-OEDC compliant jurisdictions will pressure all G-20 participants to adopt a more uniform tax code and enforcement practice.  The drive to strengthen the respect of tax treaties and the closure of havens to custody assets beyond the reach of national tax authorities signals a new era in multinational cooperation and the eclipse of radical free market tax practices.

The principal drivers for this unprecedented level of cooperation and standardization is the dire need for national tax authorities to recognize and tax revenue streams to help address the burgeoning budget deficits the global economic crisis has has wrought.

Clearly the crackdown on tax evasion is gaining momentum since the global financial crisis has devastated national treasuries.  Enormous expenditures on stimulus programs and dramatically falling tax receipts has created a perfect storm and has created an enormous threat to the fiscal soundness of national treasuries.

Forbes reports that Singapore has become the latest in a flurry of jurisdictions complying with Office of Economic Cooperation and Development standards on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes.  Fifteen jurisdictions have come into compliance since April 2009.  In addition to Singapore and the sea change occurring in the Suisse banking industry; other  governments that have lost revenue to tax havens are individually taking tough action:

–The U.K. government has informed the Isle of Man that it will reduce revenue transfers of value-added tax receipts to the island by 50 million pounds next year, 9% of the island’s revenue.

–French banks are starting to close down their operations in tax havens.

–In Germany, the hiding of funds in Liechtenstein bank accounts has prompted a backlash against tax havens.

–In the United States, White House advisor Paul Volcker in December is due to report on ways of eliminating revenue losses to tax havens.

This heightened regulation and standardization amongst  G-20 tax authorities is quickly closing any regulatory tax arbitrage opportunities for global investors.  The closure of preferential tax domiciles will heighten the power and reach of national tax agencies enforcement capabilities and the scope of their examination reach.  The IRS is stepping up its enforcement and institutional assets to assure that private equity and hedge fund industries comply with all the anti-money laundering laws and stringent tax codes.

Sum2’s IARP helps investment managers assess and manage the growing threat of audit and tax enforcement risk.  Sum2’s CARP helps large and mid-size corporations assess compliance and manage  IFI audit risk.

Risk: audit, enforcement, regulatory, tax, reputational, litigation

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November 16, 2009 Posted by | AML, CARP, corruption, IARP, IRS, legal, OECD, private equity, regulatory, reputational risk, risk management, Tax | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Perp Walks Begin: UBS Client Pleads Guilty

litigation_blindForbes digital news service reports that a  New Jersey client of the international banking giant UBS has pleaded guilty to concealing more than $6 million in assets in Swiss bank accounts.   Juergen Homann of Saddle River is the fifth US client of UBS to plead guilty in an ongoing federal investigation into the bank’s practices.  UBS officials have admitted helping wealthy American clients use foreign accounts to hide assets from the IRS.

Homann, 66, is a German-born U.S. citizen runs an industrial mineral and chemical trading company that does business mainly between China and Latin America.  Prosecutors say Homman established an account with UBS in the late 1980’s in the name of a Liechtenstein foundation. Under the advice of Swiss lawyer Matthias Rickenbach, prosecutors say Homann transferred his assets to a Hong Kong corporation to hide assets from the IRS.  Rickenbach was indicted for fraud in August for his alleged role in helping wealthy clients conceal their assets.

Under terms of the plea agreement, Homann pleaded guilty to one count information for purposely failing to report his foreign accounts. He acknowledged in a Newark federal courtroom Friday that in addition to not filing the required disclosure forms, he failed to report the account on his individual tax return and failed to report income earned on the account.  Homann faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine that could potentially reach several million dollars.

UBS has entered into an agreement with the authorities to divulge names of some 4,450 wealthy Americans suspected of evading taxes through secret bank accounts.

Michael Ben’Ary, a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice’s tax division, said Homann’s guilty plea is part of a wider multi-agency investigation that is continuing in New Jersey and nationally.

UBS clients Steven Michael Rubinstein of Boca Raton, Fla., Robert Moran of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. and Jeffrey Chernick of Stanfordville, N.Y. have all pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return as part of the case. UBS client John McCarthy of Malibu, Calif., has pleaded guilty for failing to report his ownership of and interest in a foreign financial account.

“The IRS is serious about pursuing people with hidden offshore accounts, and we are stepping up our international efforts,” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said in a statement. “People should make sure they meet their filing requirements. Failure to do so can carry serious consequences.”

Sum2 publishes the Corporate Audit Risk Program (CARP).  The CARP helps corporate entities that utilize offshore structures and investment partnerships assess their risk exposures to IRS Industry Focus Issues.  The CARP is a vital tool to uncover and mitigate costly exposures to IRS tax audit risk.

Order your CARP here.

Risk: tax, compliance, penalties, reputation, litigation

September 26, 2009 Posted by | AML, banking, hedge funds, IARP, IRS, off shore, private equity, regulatory, Sum2, Tax, Treasury | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Tax Man Cometh

taxmanThe IRS has reached agreement with UBS over disclosure of the identity of US citizens holding private bank accounts with the firm in Switzerland.  The agreement calls for UBS to release the names of 4,450 clients who are suspected of using the bank to hide assets and avoid taxation.   UBS has private banking relationships with with over 52,000 US citizens with assets approximating $15 billion.

Private banking is an important pillar of the Suisse economy.  This action may pose a significant threat to the Suisee banking industry.   Compliance with the IRS request for the names of private bank account holders  damages the venerated wall of secrecy Suisse banks employ to attract assets and clientele.  Other EU banking centers like Luxembourg and Liechtenstein may also feel pressure to comply with news standards of transparency and disclosure.  This may have the effect of driving investors to seek more exotic havens to park assets.  Offshore domiciles in the  Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia and Latin America may benefit from this action.  It may also add to the risk of investors seeking safe havens for their assets.

For US taxpayers, the resolution signifies that the IRS is serious about its intention to ramp up enforcement of the tax code.  The IRS has enhanced its focus on US citizens and corporations utilizing foreign banks and offshore investment vehicles.  The agency is concerned that investment products and financial services offered by foreign banks have enabled US citizens and corporations to avoid tax liabilities.  Products such as credit cards, hedge funds and other investment partnerships are coming under the exacting microscope of the IRS.

The IRS is under pressure to enforce compliance with federal tax statutes.  The US Treasury coffers are seriously depleted given all the stimulus and economic recovery expenditures.  The IRS is mandated to assure that compliance is adhered to so taxpayers pay taxes on all legal capital gains and income.  As this blog reported, the IRS has developed an Industry Focus Issue, (IFI) audit strategy that  profiles investment partnerships and other corporations that use offshore domiciles to harbor assets.  IFI guides field audit personnel through a risk based assessment of investment partnerships.  The IFI aggregates and ranks  Three Tiers of high risk tax compliance issues.  Examiners will conduct rigorous reviews of these issue sensitive factors.  Many of the factors concern the recognition of income and assets in custody outside of the US and repatriation of revenue derived in foreign domiciles.

Sum2 has published a product, IRS Audit Risk Program (IARP) that guides corporate tax managers and tax professionals through a risk assessment of their exposure to IFI risk factors.  The IARP is a strategic tool that corporate tax professionals utilize to score risk exposures, determine mitigation actions, estimate remediation expenses and manage tax controversy defense strategies.  The IARP is available for purchase on Amazon.com.

The IRS action against UBS is the opening salvo in the new era of enhanced compliance.  UBS is a marquee brand that indicates that the IRS is serious about compliance. As a result of the UBS settlement other Suisse banks are coming forward to make voluntary disclosures about US citizens suspected of tax-evasion.  Those bank  include, Credit Suisse, Julius Baer Holding, Zurcher Kantonalbank and Union Bancaire Privee.  UBS has  previously turned over approximately 250 names to the IRS.  It is believed that the IRS has issued indictments to 150 people from that list of names.

This high profiled action against UBS has helped to publicize the IRS amnesty program that expires September 23rd.  In an effort to encourage Americans to voluntarily disclose information about  accounts they illegally withheld, the IRS created an amnesty program. Under the amnesty program, any taxpayer who successfully completes the requirements will not be criminally prosecuted for their acts.  More details on the IRS amnesty program can be found here on the FIND LAW website.

Risk: tax, reputation, compliance,


August 21, 2009 Posted by | compliance, CTA, hedge funds, IARP, IRS, regulatory, reputational risk, Tax, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Black Knight

Sir Allen Stanford

Sir Larceny-A-Lot

Sir Allen Stanford turns out to be no knight in shining armor. He’s just another greedy creep who thought he was entitled to other peoples money.   Sir Allen might just be another garden variety Ponzi Schemer; but compared to Madoff this guy is a piker.   The theft of $8bn is petty larceny compared to Madoff’s massive $50bn swindle.

It is becoming startling clear that we can no longer view these types of events as isolated incidents. Sir Allen may be this weeks poster child for capitalists gone wild; but the shock and awe of audacious financial crime is becoming a consistent lead story on the nightly news.  Public trust in the financial markets is at stake.  If people cannot trust their financial fiduciary the whole system goes down.

The SEC’s reluctance to act on information concerning Madoff irregularities and the announcement that over 500 public firms are being reviewed for possible fraudulent business practices are raising a public outcry for more vigorous oversight and protection.  The swirling rumors of bank insolvencies, nationalizations and news of  their egregious failure to adhere to basic risk management precepts are turning the skeptical taxpayers  into vocal opponents of the TARP program and any future bank bailouts.

The allegations that UBS marketed a tax evasion scheme to attract over 50,000 US clients to their private banking business with the promise that it would shield them from onerous tax liabilities may be the straw that breaks the camels back.   US taxpayers are struggling from the burdensome pain of high taxes they dutifully pay.   They are confused and frightened by the orgy of government spending and how the financial industry bailouts will effect them.  The credit crisis and the stunning losses people incurred in their retirement and investment portfolios is casting widening doubt about the trustworthiness of the banking system.  Citizens are urging their elected representatives that all financial service providers must come under a microscope of  scrutiny and oversight.  Consumers want assurances that all fiduciaries are sound.  Taxpayers are demanding that regulators insist that financial institutions provide a level of transparency to assure consumers that they are in compliance with all regulatory mandates, have a program of risk management controls and offer proof of an ethical corporate governance program.

The US tax payer has made it clear that they can no longer shoulder an egregious tax burden that continues to finance insolvent financial institutions that failed miserably to manage risk or comply with the barest minimum standards of proper corporate governance.

The allegations that surfaced suggesting that Sanford Financial may be linked to money laundering for Latin American drug cartels through The Bank of Antigua and related banking enterprises in Venezuela and Ecuador is sure to usher in a new era of aggressive enforcement initiatives by regulators.   The practice of  selling worthless CDs to retail investors that promised high rates of interest is the tip of the spear in a sophisticated money laundering scheme.  This will create some added urgency for regulators to conduct an in depth reviews of financial institutions AML compliance programs.  Examiners will aggressively pursue fund managers  to determine that Know Your Customer (KYC), Customer Identification Procedures (CIP) and Politically Exposed People  (PEP) programs are meeting acceptable standards to detect and deter money laundering.  Of  particular concern will be hedge fund complexes with incorporated off shore structures.  To be sure, examiners will liberally interpret and claim jurisdictional nexus on all offshore structures linked to US domiciled funds.  The US Treasury coffers are bare and it will look to collect taxes on any revenue sources it deems as taxable.

Financial institutions need to demonstrate to counter parties,  regulators, SROs and most importantly investors; that they have a sound risk management program in place that protects the funds investors against all classes of operational risk.    Sum2 offers an AML audit program fund managers use to maintain compliance standards  that  demonstrate program excellence to regulators and investors.

You can believe the examiners are sharpening their spears.  Looking to bag a kill and make an example of wayward managers with lax compliance controls.  Be ready, be vigilant and be prepared.

You Tube Video: Moody Blues: Nights in White Satin

Risk: money laundering, regulatory, operations, reputation

February 23, 2009 Posted by | AML, hedge funds, off shore, operations, regulatory, reputation | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment