UBS Clients Facing Tax Evasion Prosecution Go to South Florida Tax Evasion Criminal Defense Attorneys

June 9, 2009 by David S. Seltzer

Americans facing criminal prosecution in the UBS banking case are staying out of court with help from attorneys, Reuters reported June 8. These taxpayers are clients of Swiss bank UBS, which is accused of breaking U.S. law by helping American clients to hide their assets from the IRS. The tax agency has launched a six-month amnesty program that allows those clients to avoid prosecution and high penalties, in most cases, if they come forward to pay fines and back taxes. For help, many of them are hiring tax evasion criminal defense attorneys in Miami and across the United States. One attorney told Reuters that thousands of such cases may be in progress.

The amnesty program springs from President Obama’s crackdown on tax evaders and a Miami federal lawsuit filed by the IRS against UBS. UBS has admitted to helping American clients avoid taxation by physically carrying money and assets across the ocean, rather than sending money through channels that would alert the federal government to its existence. As part of that case, UBS agreed to pay a $780 million fine and disclosed a few hundred names; the federal government sued because it wants 52,000 more names of tax scofflaws. The Swiss government, which zealously protects its banking secrecy laws, is involved in both the lawsuit and tax treaty negotiations. Federal officials say they will prosecute or sue more Swiss banks if necessary.

A Miami federal judge will decide whether UBS is legally required to disclose the names, which could trigger more prosecutions, bring down the bank and sour diplomatic relations between Switzerland and the United States. Two Floridians have already been charged with filing false tax returns, and the Reuters article said thousands more are likely to be. According to one Florida tax evasion defense lawyer, many of the clients at issue are the descendants of Holocaust survivors who passed down their overseas accounts to children and grandchildren. Because they didn’t establish the accounts on their own, some of these clients may truly not have been aware that they were doing anything wrong. Others may have relied on bad advice from the bank itself, which of course had an interest in hiding its illegal behavior.

As a Fort Lauderdale tax evasion criminal defense lawyer, I can’t help but wonder why the government is choosing high-profile prosecutions as a way to recover unpaid taxes. As a rule, tax cases settle for a fraction of the taxes owed, which means the cost of prosecution can sometimes be higher than the financial reward. Clients and the government are both better off taking advantage of the voluntary amnesty program, which allows the government to collect its money and taxpayers to settle their accounts without criminal charges, which carry five years of prison time for each conviction.

I am proud to say that I represent UBS clients and others who need help settling a tax evasion case in a way that keeps them out of legal trouble. As a South Florida tax fraud criminal defense attorney, I negotiate aggressively with federal authorities for a fair settlement that reflects the charges and amounts owed. If you’re in this situation and you’d like to learn more about your options, please contact me anytime for a free, confidential consultation.