US Offshore Disclosure Revenue above USD 10 billion

October 26th, 2016

With 55,800 taxpayers participating in the US Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) since 2009, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it has collected more than USD 9.9 billion in taxes, interest, and penalties from the initiative to date.

The IRS added that another 48,000 taxpayers have used the streamlined filing compliance procedures to correct prior non-willful omissions and meet their federal tax obligations, paying approximately USD 450 million in taxes, interest, and penalties.

Both the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program and the streamlined procedures allow taxpayers with undisclosed income from foreign financial accounts and assets to correct and regularize their affairs while mitigating penalties.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said: “The IRS has passed several major milestones in our offshore efforts, collecting a combined USD 10 billion with 100,000 taxpayers coming back into compliance. He noted that, when receiving more information on foreign accounts, people’s ability to avoid detection becomes harder and harder. So, the IRS urges those people with international tax issues to come forward to meet their tax obligations.

Besides the OVDP and the streamlined procedures, the IRS noted that, under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act and the network of inter-governmental agreements between the US and partner jurisdictions, automatic third-party account reporting has entered its 2nd year.

UN expert calls on new boss to fight Tax Havens

October 20th, 2016

The new United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, is being asked by one of the body’s human rights experts to call a world conference on tax avoidance and evasion, with a view to abolish all tax havens.

The UN’s independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, said that Guterres’ appointment as the new UN leader offered “a unique opportunity to advance the fight against tax evasion and illicit financial flows” when the world’s attention is on these crucial problems.

“Trillions of dollars necessary for combatting extreme poverty and addressing climate change are being kept offshore, thus escaping just taxation and effectively stealing hundreds of billions of dollars each year from the public treasuries,” he stated.

He also noted: “Widespread tax avoidance, tax evasion, tax fraud and profit-shifting, facilitated by bank secrecy and a web of shell companies registered in tax havens, are now routinely documented, but their true human cost is only revealed progressively”, following the publication of his report to the General Assembly on these matters.

According to him, a growing number of human rights experts were pointing to tax abuse as a human rights issue.

“Corruption, bribery, tax fraud and tax evasion have such grave effects on human dignity, human rights and human welfare that they shock the conscience of mankind. They should be prosecuted nationally and internationally,” de Zayas said.

UK bill to open details on multinational Tax Evasion

September 9th, 2016

A legislative amendment in the United Kingdom this week will give the British government the power to publish details of tax payments made by UK-based multinational corporations on a country by country basis, as tax authorities try to clamp down on the abuse of tax laws and aggressive tax avoidance.

The change in the law followed cross-party calls for companies to publish the details of where they do their business and the tax they pay in each place, which came in response to the controversy surrounding a deal between the government of the UK and Google to repay GBP 130 million in back taxes earlier this year.

In August, the European Commission ruled that Ireland should recover up to EUR 13 billion from Apple in back taxes.

Director of the Financial Transparency Coalition described it as a welcome step but said it was important for the government to actually use the power it now has by releasing country by country reports of UK multinationals to the public as quickly as possible. He said: “It’s time to break out of perpetual scandal mode and make some changes to business as usual. A financial system that relies on plausible deniability and shifting responsibility is inherently shaky, and it’s simply not sustainable.”

EU signs agreement with IOTA to fight Tax Evasion

July 29th, 2016

An Agreement for Cooperation has been signed by the Intra-European Organisation of Tax Administrations (IOTA) with the European Commission to allow them to work more effectively towards the common goals of the two bodies – particularly, cracking down on tax evasion.

According to an announcement made by IOTA on July 26, the main areas of collaboration under the agreement include cooperating in the fight against tax fraud, information exchange, providing mutual assistance, supporting tax authorities to improve taxpayer compliance rates, and supporting capacity building.

The agreement between IOTA and the Taxation and Customs Union Directorate General (DG TAXUD) of the European Commission was signed during IOTA’s General Assembly on July 7 in Bucharest by IOTA’s President, Octavian Deaconu, and Caroline Edery, Head of Unit, Tax Administration and Fight Against Tax Fraud, DG TAXUD.

IOTA is a non-profit intergovernmental organization based in Budapest that is aimed at promoting best practices in tax administration and more effective cooperation between its 46 member tax authorities.

Singapore Authority sets up AML department

June 13th, 2016

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has announced establishing a dedicated anti-money laundering department aimed to combat illicit financial activities.

The regulator will set up a dedicated supervisory team in order to monitor illicit financing risks as well as carry out onsite supervision of how financial institutions manage these risks.

Before, these functions were carried out by different departments in MAS. Now, the new structure is to enhance supervisory focus.

Ravi Menon, Managing Director of MAS, said: “We will strengthen our supervision of financial institutions’ controls to combat money laundering and illicit financing. And we will enhance our enforcement capability to deter poor controls or criminal behaviour in the industry”.

Football Star accused of Tax Evasion through offshore companies

June 2nd, 2016

Lionel Messi, a 28-year-old 5-time World Player of the Year, and his father Jorge Messi were accused of using offshore companies in Belize and Uruguay in order to avoid over EUR 4 million in tax.

In his and his father’s trial over tax evasion, Messi insisited that he did not make attempts to avoid paying taxes on EUR 4.16 million of his income earned through the sale of his image rights from 2007-2009

When giving testimony in the court in Barcelona, the Argentina skipper said: “I didn’t know anything, all I know about is playing football and winning.” He also said: “I only knew that sponsors would pay X amount of money, that I had to do adverts, photos and things like that.” He declared that he had never read anything but I would sign where the lawyers said.

Tax authorities are asking that both Leo and his father serve about 2 years in jail for the offence, but the public prosecutor is only pursuing Messi Sr.

Jorge Messi, Leo’s father and co-defendant, had earlier claimed that he didn’t realise the Belize company that managed image rights deals didn’t pay taxes in Spain, and that he never informed his son of the details of sponsorship deals. “Since the start of Leo’s career I only tried to make his life easier,” he said.

Belize to enhance Anti-Money Laundering

May 22nd, 2016

To strengthen the jurisdiction’s safeguards against financial crime, Belize’s Financial Intelligence Unit and Belize Police have signed a memorandum of understanding.

The memorandum will strengthen the existing cooperation and facilitate the analysis and investigation of suspected money laundering, associated offenses, and the financing of terrorism. Implementation of the document is expected to increase the potential sources of information available to both the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Police in their fight against crime. Also, joint operations between the authorities will be possible.

The Financial Intelligence Unit is the Belizean authority dealing with the enforcement and implementation of all anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulations and the prevention of domestic tax evasion.

FATF grants Israel observer status

February 26th, 2016

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has announced that Israel will join the organization as an observer starting June 2016.

The admission is a significant step in the application process for joining the prestigious group, which sets the global rules for combating money laundering and terror financing. Joining the authority will allow Israel to participate in shaping global policy and position it as one of the leading countries in the international fight against money laundering and terror financing. Also, the announcement is to support the Israeli economy by providing the country an unofficial stamp of approval for its financial sector.

Israel’s Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority chief Dr. Shlomit Wagman-Ratner said: “The decision to accept Israel into the FATF – an important, prestigious, and influential group – reflects the contribution of Israel to the global fight against money laundering and terror financing and signals that Israel is a leading country with expertise in the sector.”

Angola removed from Money Laundering Blacklist

February 20th, 2016

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has removed Angola from its blacklist of jurisdictions that fail to meet international standards.

The FATF added this southern African country to the list in 2010. The Angolan central bank said the FATF’s decision came after the country implemented reforms that included licensing of banks and setting up a Financial Intelligence Unit, which collects information on suspicious or unusual financial activity.

The removal is expected to improve the credit quality and financial institutions of Angola.

Last year, the risk of financial crime and difficulty in monitoring clients forced Standard Chartered to announce it had ended its dollar-clearing operations with commercial banks in Angola. Bank of America also stopped selling Angolan banks the greenback from the beginning of December 2015.

Australia considers tighter AML rules for real estate and gems

January 25th, 2016

Australia is considering tightening its anti-money laundering regulations to include real estate agents and precious stone dealers, following red flags from a global watchdog over potential illicit cash entering the country.

While tighter regulations would not be aimed at inflows from any one country, Australian authorities are reacting following a surge of cash from wealthy Chinese buyers looking for a safe haven away from the market turmoil of their home markets. Purchases of pink diamonds by Chinese have increased. About 70% of Chinese real estate buyers pay in cash.

According to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a lack of scrutiny by Australian authorities in the property and precious stones sectors was “an increasing high risk” in the global fight against money laundering and financing of extremists.

Australia’s Attorney General’s Department, responsible for the country’s law and justice framework, is reviewing its rules to address those concerns, people familiar with the plans said. The rules already cover banking, remittance and gaming.