Swiss Accounts: New Tax Terms for Offshore Accounts

Financial Planning

Offshore trusts offer many benefits, which our attorneys explain in this foreign trust protection post. Offshore trusts or accounts are not exempt from domestic taxes, however some taxpayers have illegally used offshore accounts as a means of tax evasion. For years Switzerland’s financial laws made it an attractive destination for these types of dealings. Recently, the United States government made an agreement with Swiss banks that delivers information about secret Swiss accounts held by US taxpayers.

Anchor Part of the agreement offers a resolution system for every Swiss bank that is not under a current criminal investigation. Eligible banks will have the option of paying fines and providing account holders’ information in lieu of criminal prosecution. The fines will be calculated based on 50% of the value of assets held in secret accounts. Fines will be significantly more for accounts opened in the past three years. Officials estimate over $2 trillion is being held in undisclosed Swiss accounts.
Do you live in North Carolina and have a Swiss bank account? Individuals who have secret offshore accounts and who have not properly reported and satisfied taxes on their assets are in serious situations now. Not only will their offshore accounts be closed, but they will face severe penalties. Tax and financial advisors who aided individuals in tax evasion face similar consequences. Switzerland’s oldest private financial institution, Wegelin & Co, closed in early 2013 after admitting guilt for facilitating evasion of over $1 billion from US taxes. Two large banks currently being investigated include Credit Suisse and Julius Baer. These are just two of a hundred banks targeted by officials.
In a press release from the Department of Justice:
The department notes that the joint statement with the Swiss Federal Department of Finance provides that if personal data are provided, they should only be used for purposes of law enforcement, which may include regulatory action, in the United States or as otherwise permitted by U.S. law. Additionally, the department has assured its Swiss counterparts that it understands that simply because the names of individuals are included in the information that it receives from a bank does not necessarily mean that any particular individual is or is not culpable of wrongdoing.
Offshore accounts and trusts are perfectly legitimate, provided they are reported for tax purposes. Those interested in asset protection strategies similar to foreign trusts but want to have their funds stay in the US can ask their North Carolina asset protection attorney about Domestic Asset Protection Trusts (DAPTs). Although they are not available in every state (including North Carolina), anyone in the US can create a DAPT in a state other than where they reside.
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