On April 7, 2011, the U.S. Justice Department asked a federal district court in San Francisco to force HSBC USA to disclose the names of their U.S. customers suspected of having secret bank accounts in India.
The government filed a petition with the court to allow the IRS to serve what is known as a “John Doe” summons on the bank. John Doe summons are used by the IRS to obtain information about possible tax fraud by those whose identities are unknown. If approved, the John Doe summons would direct HSBC USA to produce records identifying U.S. taxpayers with accounts at HSBC India. In court documents, the Justice
Department alleged that HSBC bankers solicited prospective clients, promising that, as a foreign bank, HSBC’s India wouldn’t disclose their accounts to the Internal Revenue Service. According to the government, thousands of U.S. taxpayers have opened bank accounts with HSBC India since 2002.
This move by the IRS and Department of Justice opens up a new chapter in the U.S. crackdown on tax evasion. Previous cases focused on Americans with Swiss bank accounts, the most notable of which was the John Doe summons case against UBS. In February, the IRS announced a new amnesty initiative for the taxpayers with hidden offshore accounts. The program offers taxpayers who voluntarily come forward protection from criminal prosecution for tax evasion. The program will require individuals to pay a penalty of 25% of the amount in their foreign bank accounts in the year with the highest aggregate account balance over eight years from 2003 through 2010. The taxpayers will also be required to amend their tax returns, and pay back taxes and interest, as well as accuracy-related penalties. Under the regular FBAR rules, a taxpayer could pay up to 50% of the highest amount in each account for each year over six years.
Copyright (c) 2011 Igor S. Drabkin. All Rights Reserved.