US DoJ and Swiss government announce new voluntary disclosure programme for Swiss banks

By Diana L Erbsen, Alan Winston Granwell, Michael J Legamaro, Ellis L Reemer and Catherine B Engell 

In recent years, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) has been aggressively investigating the use of bank accounts outside the US to evade tax. While emphasising that its enforcement activities are and must remain global, the DoJ has taken public actions relating to banking activities in Switzerland, India, Luxembourg, Israel, the Caribbean and Lichtenstein. These initiatives and ongoing investigations have resulted in the prosecutions of multiple banks and 68 US persons and professionals (including approximately 30 banking professionals).

In August 2013, the Swiss Federal Government and the DoJ announced a first-of-its-kind programme that will enable eligible Swiss banks to address and resolve their status with regard to the DoJ’s ongoing enforcement investigations.  

The new programme, which is open only to Swiss banks not currently under investigation by the DoJ, is effectively a voluntary disclosure programme for banks, with features comparable to those of the voluntary disclosure programmes offered by the US Internal Revenue Service in recent years to US persons with undisclosed financial accounts outside of the US (referred to collectively as the OVD Initiatives), incorporating definitions, due diligence procedures and compliance programme approaches contained in the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) as implemented by Switzerland and the US in the Swiss-US Intergovernmental Agreement (Swiss IGA)…

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