Rich taxpayers have inundated the Internal Revenue Service in recent weeks with requests to come clean for past tax evasion, amid a government crackdown on undeclared income from overseas accounts.
The volume has been so great that Wednesday, the IRS issued a streamlined, three-page form for taxpayers seeking entry into its temporary voluntary-disclosure program.
“Last week we had 400 —four times as many as in all of last year,” said IRS spokesman Frank Keith, who declined to provide more detailed figures.
Two main factors appear to be driving the clemency-seeking spree. The IRS disclosure program, which began in March and is set to end Sept. 23, offers Americans the possibility that they may face civil charges, which can carry lower penalties than criminal charges, for volunteering details of tax evasion.
At the same time, the IRS and the U.S. Justice Department are pressing ahead with efforts to investigate taxpayers who failed to report income earned from undeclared accounts with Swiss bank UBS AG.
The UBS matter represents the government’s highest-profile efforts to capture some of the billions of dollars in revenue lost to offshore tax evasion annually. Under U.S. law, every year taxpayers are required to declare income earned from foreign financial accounts. Countries with bank secrecy laws such as Switzerland have made it easier for Americans to conceal assets and income from the IRS.