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Swiss Banks Forced to Disclose Foreign Accounts and Transfers to U.S. Authorities

December 19, 2013, Caplin & Drysdale

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Last Chance to Voluntarily Disclose to IRS and Avoid Serious Penalties


CONTACT: Charles M. Ruchelman - (202) 862-7834 /


WASHINGTON, DC—December 19, 2013: In recent weeks, Swiss banks have been notifying U.S. account holders that the banks will be disclosing the relationship between the Swiss bank accounts and their U.S. owners to the U.S. Department of Justice.  Furthermore, if an account has been recently closed at a Swiss bank and transferred to another institution, the details of the transfer will be revealed to the U.S. Authorities.  The Swiss banks are revealing the U.S. account holders' information and data because they themselves are participating in a special program with the U.S. Department of Justice in order to avoid criminal prosecution in the United States. 

The Department of Justice's special program was announced in late August, 2013 via a joint statement with the Swiss Federal Department of Finance.  Also,  a document captioned "Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements Or Non-Target Letters for Swiss Banks" was publicly released (See

As part of the participation in and implementation of the special program, the Swiss banks will be required to disclose to the U.S. Authorities certified details about U.S. held accounts, including, on an account-by-account basis, the highest value since 2008, the number of persons affiliated with the account, whether the account was held in a structure (e.g., foundation), and information about transfers of funds into or out of the account.

As a result of these events, U.S. account holders are receiving letters from the Swiss banks notifying them of the banks' participation in the program with the Department of Justice.  U.S. account holders should not ignore these letters.  Instead, U.S. account holders should contact a U.S. legal representative to determine his or her rights and obligations as an Internal Revenue Service examination could be triggered by the banks' disclosures to the U.S. Authorities.

"Any U.S. taxpayer who has failed to report accounts in Switzerland as part of their past U.S. tax filings should consider immediate steps to bring themselves into compliance with the Internal Revenue Service," said Charles M. Ruchelman, a member of the Washington, DC law firm of Caplin & Drysdale.  Caplin & Drysdale has handled hundreds of voluntary disclosures, audits, and investigations arising from unreported offshore accounts.  Fast-acting professionals and affected persons can protect themselves from criminal prosecution by making a "voluntary disclosure" to the IRS (see  Competent tax lawyers with experience in this specialized area can guide their clients through this process, which requires payment of the unreported income tax, interest, and a civil penalty.  A U.S. taxpayer's failure to come forward on a timely basis, and failure to comply with ongoing filing requirements, could result in serious criminal and civil consequences.  

Finally, the current terms of the IRS voluntary disclosure program for U.S. taxpayers could change at any moment and become less favorable.  Therefore, given this uncertainty and the imminent Swiss bank disclosures, U.S. taxpayers should move quickly.

For more information, please contact Charles M. Ruchelman at or 202.862.7834. 


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