Department of Justice Seal Department of Justice
MONDAY, MARCH 25, 2002
(202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888


Summonses To Visa International, American Express, And Mastercard Will Catch People Who Use Offshore Credit Cards To Cheat On United States Taxes

WASHINGTON, D.C. The Department of Justice today asked a federal court in San Francisco to approve its service of a John Doe summons on VISA International. "John Doe" summonses permit the IRS to obtain information about people whose identities are unknown. The information expected in response to the summons will help the IRS identify people who use offshore accounts to evade their United States income tax liabilities. These people have VISA-sponsored credit, charge or debit cards issued by banks in more than 30 countries, including Switzerland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Bermuda and numerous Caribbean nations.

Also today, in a federal court in Miami, the Department of Justice filed papers reflecting American Express's agreement to turn over records relating to people who may be subject to United States income taxes and who have credit card accounts with addresses in Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas or the Cayman Islands.

MasterCard has already produced over 1.7 million records, involving over 230,000 accounts, in response to a John Doe summons. According to the IRS, that information will be used in civil audits and criminal investigations.

"We are pleased with the information the IRS has received from MasterCard, and look forward to the information American Express has agreed to provide, and that which we expect VISA to provide in response to the summons we are now seeking to serve," said Eileen J. O'Connor, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Tax Division. "The IRS believes the use of offshore accounts is enabling people to evade billions of dollars per year in United States taxes. The information from these summonses will permit the IRS to identify many of these tax evaders. "