Offshore Tax Cheats

Friday, April 15, 2011 - 3:37pm

Americans holding money in secret offshore accounts risk prosecution.

A half million Americans have a difficult decision between now and august 31: Come clean about their secret off-shore bank accounts in Switzerland and around the world, or run the risk of going to jail.

The IRS is offering an amnesty program for anyone who wants to confess, but they have to pay a penalty of as much as 25 percent of their account.

Attorney Scott Michel represents hundreds of offshore account holders.

"An effective voluntary disclosure program is like iron fist in a velvet glove. You need to go after people from enforcement perspective and then on the other hand welcome people who want to come in and make things right," he says.

That's why government investigators have zeroed in on account holders all over the country.

Secret accounts are so common, the investigation has pried into neighborhoods across the country.

Among them: A financial consultant in San Diego, a retired Boeing sales manager in Washington state, a yacht broker in Florida and a gem dealer in Manhattan.

It isn't easy to hide all this cash from the government.

A doctor in Virginia, the government said, tried to mail himself $200,000 in cash from Europe.

Not all of the money made it safely home.

"Greed has no limits in certain instances, and the American taxpayers are going to game the system until they realize the system can't be gamed anymore," says former U.S. Attorney Jeff Neiman.

Last week, the U.S. Government sent a summons to the bank HSBC demanding the names of Americans who have secret accounts with that bank in India, showing that they're going after secret accounts wherever they are.


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