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October 16, 2009

7,500 Give Offshore Tax Data to I.R.S.

Published: October 14, 2009

More than 7,500 American taxpayers have voluntarily disclosed secret offshore accounts to the Internal Revenue Service, which is cracking down on overseas tax evasion, the agency said on Wednesday.

Those who have come forward have provided information about accounts holding from $10,000 to $100 million since the I.R.S. extended a Sept. 23 deadline for participating in the voluntary disclosure program, said Doug Shulman, the I.R.S. commissioner.

People who come forward voluntarily can avoid criminal prosecution and their identities will remain a secret under federal law requiring tax records to be kept confidential.

The partial amnesty ends Thursday and will not be extended a second time, he said.

Americans with undeclared offshore accounts have been under growing pressure since Switzerland agreed Aug. 19 to hand over data to the authorities in the United States on as many as 4,450 UBS accounts. The move was to settle a lawsuit in which the United States had sought information on as many as 52,000 accounts.

“We’re going to be scouring the 7,500 disclosures to identify financial institutions, advisers and others” who helped taxpayers skirt their obligations, Mr. Shulman said in a conference call. “This entire effort is not just about UBS and a single country.”

It is not yet known how much overlap might exist between the names that UBS will eventually provide and the 7,500 people who have come forward to the I.R.S., Mr. Shulman said.

The I.R.S. will open offices in Beijing, Panama City and Sydney in connection with the investigation, which has revealed accounts held in 70 countries and on every continent except Antarctica, he said. The agency also intends to add about 800 employees in the next year and add staff to eight existing overseas offices, including Hong Kong and Barbados.

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