The AP (9/12) reports that the IRS has "awarded an ex-banker $104 million for providing information about overseas tax cheats - the largest amount ever awarded by the agency." Bradley Birkenfeld exposed widespread tax evasion at UBS AG in a case that resulted in a $780 million fine and "an unprecedented agreement requiring UBS to turn over thousands of names of suspected American tax dodgers to the IRS." IRS spokeswoman Michele Eldridge said in an email, "The IRS believes that the whistleblower statute provides a valuable tool to combat tax non-compliance, and this award reflects our commitment to the law." In a summary of the award, the IRS said, "The comprehensive information provided by the whistleblower was exceptional in both its breadth and depth."
Bloomberg News (9/12, Schoenberg, Voreacos) reports that the case "led to an erosion of the use of Swiss bank secrecy by wealthy Americans to cheat the IRS. At least 11 banks are under criminal investigation in the U.S. Two dozen offshore bankers, lawyers and advisers, as well as 50 American taxpayers, have been charged with crimes." Stephen Kohn, one of Birkenfeld's lawyers, said, "Today the IRS sent a message to every American taxpayer who still has an illegal offshore account. Turn yourself in while there is still an amnesty program. Turn yourself in before your banker does." In a statement confirming the award, the IRS said, "The whistle-blower statute provides a valuable tool to combat tax non-compliance, and this award reflects our commitment to the law."
The New York Times (9/12, Kocieniewski, Subscription Publication) reports that the award is "also a milestone for the agency's whistle-blower program, which offers informants rewards of up to 30 percent of any fines and unpaid taxes recouped by the government."
The Wall Street Journal (9/12, Saunders, Sidel, Subscription Publication) reports that Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), who sponsored the law, said, "The IRS encourages courageous actions. An award of $104 million is obviously a great deal of money, but billions of dollars in taxes owed will be collected that otherwise would not have been paid as a result of the whistleblower information."
The Financial Times (9/12, Scannell, Subscription Publication) also quotes the IRS as saying, "The comprehensive information provided by the whistleblower was exceptional in both its breadth and depth. While the IRS was aware of tax compliance issues related to secret bank accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere, the information provided by the whistleblower formed the basis for unprecedented actions against UBS."
The Washington Post (9/12, Elboghdady) and the
Fiscal Times (9/12, Ehley) also reported on the story.