Swiss Bank Accounts Soon To Be Not So Secret?

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 28 2013 7:31 PM

Swiss Bank Accounts Soon To Be Not So Secret? New Deal Could Out U.S. Tax Evaders.

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A sign of HSBC private bank (Suisse) in the center of Geneva.

Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. and Switzerland have reportedly struck a deal that could out Americans who have stashed money in Swiss bank accounts to avoid paying U.S. taxes. The agreement would resolve a long running dispute where the U.S. government has pursued tax evaders that have assets in the famously secretive Swiss banking system. Switzerland is the world’s largest offshore financial center with some $2.2 trillion in assets, according to Bloomberg.

The 14 Swiss banks currently under investigation by the Justice Department would not be covered under the new agreement. Some 300 other Swiss banks, however, would have the option to self-disclose “extensive information about their American clients, the value of their accounts and any help they received from tax professionals,” according to the AP.

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The Wall Street Journal reports that, according to a senior official, the U.S. could collect up to $1 billion or more in penalties under the agreement and “depending on the degree of wrongdoing, the penalties could range from 20% to 50% of the highest balances in U.S. taxpayers' accounts.”

The deal covers transactions between 2008 and 2014 and comes in anticipation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (Facta) that goes into effect in 2014, requiring foreign banks to disclose information on U.S. taxpayers.

 Both Swiss and U.S. officials expect the agreement to be finalized in “the coming days,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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