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Abusive Tax Shelters

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Top Ten Tax Recoveries of 2020

Posted  02/5/21
us cash with "taxes" sign on top
Tax fraud and tax evasion, unfortunately, continued apace last year.  Yet even in the face of waning tax resources, enforcement authorities chalked up some key wins in 2020. Criminal recoveries tend to dominate the headlines because many of the biggest tax recoveries are not public: the IRS scrupulously protects taxpayer privacy, and no announcements are made for civil tax recoveries.  Thus only those that result...

Sunshine State Local Elections Shine Light on How Dark Shell Company Data Can Be

Posted  11/18/20
By Sarah “Poppy” Alexander
top-secret-seal
Amidst the ongoing saga of the US national elections, Florida local elections may not have made much of a ripple.  But one small scandal in the Sunshine State reveals a lot about the ongoing problem the US has with shell corporations and their hidden ownership structures. The story is convoluted, as most shell company stories are.  A political donor, Proclivity, who had never donated money in Florida before,...

Catch of the Week: Texas-Sized Indictment for $2 Billion Tax Fraud

Posted  10/16/20
texas longhorn bull standing in open grass field
Everything sure is bigger in Texas.  Bigger hair, bigger churches, bigger stadiums, bigger ranches, and bigger sky.  Oh, and as of this week, bigger billionaires committing bigger frauds! On Thursday, federal prosecutors in California charged Robert T. Brockman, a Houston tech executive, with hiding $2 billion in income from the Internal Revenue Service.  True to Texas form, David L. Anderson, the U.S. attorney...

October 15, 2020

Robert F. Smith, who formed and beneficially owned Belize entity the Excelsior Trust and Nevis entity Flash Holdings, has entered into a non-prosecution agreement, agreeing to pay $139 million, to resolve claims that between 2000 and 2015 he unlawfully used the offshore entities and their offshore bank accounts to conceal income earned by him on private equity investments and evade millions in taxes.  Using the offshore trust accounts, Smith willfully did not report to the IRS over $200 million of partnership income.  In addition, he unlawfully failed to report his ownership of foreign bank accounts in BVI and Switzerland.  The $139 million settlement consists of $56 million in taxes and penalties on unreported income and $82 million in penalties stemming from his failure to report his offshore bank accounts.  In addition, Smith agreed to abandon a $182 million refund claim based on alleged charitable contributions in 2018 and 2019.  DOJ; USAO ND Cal

October 6, 2020

Financial services firm Strachans SA, now Strachans SA in Liquidation, pleaded guilty to charges that it conspired with U.S. taxpayers and others to enable the taxpayers to conceal income and assets in offshore accounts.  Strachans services included the formation of trusts and offshore companies, management of undeclared assets held by nominee sham entities, and the facilitation of cash withdrawals by U.S. clients from the undeclared offshore entities through fake loans, sham consultancy agreements, dummy invoicing, and other methods.  Strachans, which voluntarily disclosed its conduct to the IRS in 2014, will pay a fine of $500,000DOJ

April 30, 2020

Israel-based Bank Hapoalim, together with its Swiss and other subsidiaries, will pay nearly $875 million and plead guilty to charges that it conspired with U.S. taxpayers and others to conceal $7.6 billion in thousands of Swiss and Israeli bank accounts from the Internal Revenue Service and other U.S. government entities, including New York State.  As part of its plea, the bank admitted that it assisted U.S. customers in setting up secret accounts, sheltering assets and income, and evading taxes.  The total payment by bank entities consists of $216.8 million in restitution to the IRS, $160.3 million in forfeiture, federal penalties of $239.8 million, $37.4 million in civil monetary penalties to the Federal Reserve System, and $220 million in penalties to the New York State Department of Financial Services.   As part of a deferred prosecution agreement, the bank will cooperate with ongoing investigations and disclose information regarding U.S.-related accounts. The bank simultaneously entered into a separate settlement agreement regarding money laundering with respect to the FIFA bribery investigation. DOJ; USAO SDNY; NY.

Top Ten Tax Enforcement Actions of 2019

Posted  01/17/20
Hundred Dollar Bills with American Flag, and 1040 Tax Form
Tax fraud and tax evasion persist each year in various forms and whistleblowers have been at the forefront in combatting entities and individuals cheating the system. Under the IRS Whistleblower Reward Program, whistleblowers who bring information regarding tax fraud to light that results in a recover of over $2 million can be eligible for a reward between 15 to 30% of the government’s recovery. The IRS...

December 10, 2019

HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) SA has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and agreed to pay $192 million for conspiring with U.S. clients and others to evade taxes over a ten year period.  At the peak of the scheme in 2007, HSBC Switzerland was estimated to hold undeclared assets worth approximately $1.26 billion on behalf of U.S. clients, before it self-disclosed to authorities three years later.  The resulting fine, which took into account the bank’s extensive cooperation with the investigation, represents about $61 million in restitution to the IRS, $72 million in civil forfeiture to the DOJ, and $59 million in penalties.  DOJ

Malta’s Ongoing Corruption Scandal Renews Focus on Money Laundering

Posted  12/5/19
By Sarah “Poppy” Alexander
Money Hanging on a Clothes Line
The tragic murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017 sparked international outrage—and the fear that nothing would be done to discover who was behind her death.  This turns out not to be the case.  After years of persistence from her family and journalist community, Yorgen Fenech, a gambling, real estate, and energy mogul, was arrested on November 20 for complicity in her murder.  He has...

November 6, 2019

Winston Shrout, who became a fugitive after being sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2017, has been captured and returned to custody.  Shrout led seminars promoting the use of fraudulent financial instruments as a means to avoid taxes, and sold materials for the preparation of such fraudulent instruments.  In addition, Shrout failed to file tax returns from 2009 through 2014.   DOJ
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