IRS Reviving Program Seeking Offshore Tax Cheats

Published January 9, 2012 8:18PM (EST)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Internal Revenue Service is reviving a program that lets Americans hiding their money abroad pay back taxes and penalties while avoiding criminal prosecution, an effort that in recent years has netted the government billions of dollars.

IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, who announced the program's renewal Monday, said previous efforts in 2009 and 2011 resulted in the collection so far of $4.4 billion from 33,000 people. He said the government could gain several times that amount, as a result of both the newest initiative plus people deciding against stashing their assets overseas in the first place.

"If we catch people before they come in voluntarily, it's going to be a much worse outcome for the taxpayer," Shulman told reporters.

Under the new program, taxpayers will face penalties of up to 27.5 percent of the assets they hid offshore, plus paying back taxes and interest for up to eight years. People whose assets hidden abroad do not exceed $75,000 could face penalties of 12.5 percent, and others might face fines of even less.

By coming forward, they avoid the possibility of criminal charges, which could result in jail time and even higher penalties.

By Salon Staff

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