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Success in Critical Enforcement Areas, Including Fraud, Abusive Tax Shelters, Offshore Evasion and Identity Theft as 2013 Filing Deadline Approaches

WASHINGTON – With the annual tax filing deadline approaching on April 15, the Justice Department today announced highlights of its work during the past year to defend and enforce the nation's tax laws. The Tax Division has worked together with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to carry out their combined tax enforcement missions in several critical areas, including prosecuting tax fraud and evasion, halting the spread of abusive tax shelters, tracking down tax cheats who use offshore accounts, and combating stolen identity refund fraud. Previously, the division announced that it has shut down more than 30 fraudulent tax preparers over the past six months.

The Tax Division's primary purpose is to enforce the nation's tax laws fully, fairly, and consistently, through both criminal and civil litigation. Some of the division's accomplishments from the past fiscal year (FY 2012) include:

"As honest taxpayers prepare to meet their filing obligations by April 15, they should know that we are committed to enforcing the tax laws against those who would cheat on their responsibilities," said Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Keneally. "The department will continue to use all available law enforcement tools to recover tax revenue and to punish tax offenders."

"The IRS and Department of Justice have made significant strides in recent months to combat tax fraud, identity theft, and offshore tax evasion," said IRS Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller. "We appreciate the Justice Department’s strong support and cooperation to protect the interests of the nation's taxpayers."

Prosecuting Tax Offenses

The Tax Division has supervisory authority over all criminal conduct involving federal tax laws. The Division has always maintained as a central focus the investigation and prosecution of tax crimes, including tax evasion, failure to file returns, submission of false tax returns, and other conduct designed to violate federal tax laws. Tax Division attorneys are also particularly adept at prosecuting tax defiers—those individuals who purposefully refuse to comply with the tax laws and use frivolous arguments to support their positions.

Some of the Tax Division's criminal tax prosecution highlights from the past year include:

Halting the Spread of Tax Shelters

The Tax Division plays a critical role in the government's efforts to combat abusive tax shelters. These cases involve more than a billion dollars in tax revenue, and affect billions more owed by other taxpayers. In recent years, the division's civil litigators at both the trial and appellate levels have won important victories in cases involving tax shelters with names such as Son of BOSS, BLIPS, CARDS, DAD and SILO/LILO.

Some of the division's successes this year include:

Investigating Offshore Evasion

The Tax Division continues to play a leading role in investigations and prosecutions involving the use of foreign tax havens. According to a 2008 Senate report, the use of secret offshore accounts to evade U.S. taxes costs the Treasury at least $100 billion annually. The Division is committed to investigating offshore tax evasion around the globe. The division's current offshore program began in 2008, with the investigation of UBS, which resulted in the 2009 UBS deferred prosecution agreement. Since 2008, the division has charged a total of 30 banking professionals and 62 account holders, which charges have so far resulted in three convictions after trial and 55 guilty pleas, including 16 guilty pleas this year alone.

In January, 2013, the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York secured the guilty plea of Wegelin Bank, the oldest private bank in Switzerland, and the first foreign bank to plead guilty to felony tax charges. Appearing on behalf of the bank, managing partner Otto Bruderer admitted that the bank had conspired to defraud the United States by helping U.S. account holders hide assets from the IRS in undeclared accounts. In the same month, the federal district court in New York entered an order authorizing the IRS to issue a "John Doe" summons seeking records of Wegelin's United States correspondent account at UBS, which will allow the United States to determine the identity of U.S. taxpayers who may hold accounts at Wegelin and other banks based in Switzerland to evade federal income taxes. In the past year, the Division has charged 8 banking professionals and 11 account holders in connection with investigations into offshore banks located in India, Israel, and Switzerland.

Some highlights from the division and the U.S. Attorney's Offices includes:

Combating Identity Theft

The Tax Division, in conjunction with the IRS and U.S. Attorneys nationwide, has made a high priority the investigation and prosecution of individuals who engage in stolen identity refund fraud (SIRF). The division is targeting individuals involved in all stages of these schemes, including those who illegally obtain the Social Security numbers and other personal identifying information, those who file the false returns with the IRS, those who knowingly facilitate cashing the checks or otherwise obtaining the refunds, and those who mastermind or promote these scams.

Some highlights of the Tax Division's success prosecuting perpetrators of identity theft over the past year include:

Return Preparer Fraud

Corrupt accountants and fraudulent tax return preparers present a serious law enforcement concern. Some accountants and return preparers dupe unwitting clients into filing fraudulent returns, while others serve as willing "enablers," providing a veneer of legitimacy for clients predisposed to cheat. The division's civil injunction program, now more than 10 years old, continues to be an effective way to quickly shut down fraudulent return preparers and illegal tax-scheme promoters – especially during filing season – thereby reducing the harm to the public while potential criminal investigations are ongoing. In March, the Tax Division announced recent successes in its civil injunction program including more than 30 injunctions entered against both large-scale tax return preparation franchises and smaller, independent return preparers and promoters across the country in recent months.

Hiding income offshore, identity theft, and return preparer fraud are all part of the IRS's "Dirty Dozen Tax Scams." More information about the Tax Division's civil and criminal enforcement efforts in these and other areas is available on the Justice Department website. For more on the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams, see the IRS website and the IRS YouTube Channel.