At Least Your Money Can Live Like a Millionaire’s
Movie super spies James Bond and Jason Bourne use them. So do real-life presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who says he pays his taxes, and untold numbers of Americans who don’t. Swiss banks and their secretive counterparts around the globe may sound like the exclusive province of the wealthy, the mysterious or the shady, but anybody can legally open an offshore account.
Wouldn’t it be swell to have a cool million stashed away on a sunny Caribbean island?
Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Get a million dollars.
How? There are essentially two ways — legally or illegally. For those with dirty cash to launder — drug traffickers, mobsters, smugglers, swindlers and such — offshore accounts hidden from the law are the obvious choice (skip to Step 5).
For honest money, there’s more to consider.
Step 2: Decide whether to tell the IRS.
U.S. citizens are supposed to pay taxes no matter where their money is. But the IRS can’t tax what it doesn’t know about, and the odds of getting caught offshore have been slim. But beware — that’s changing.
The government has landed some big fish — notably the largest Swiss bank, UBS AG — and tax cheats are getting scooped up in the net.
In an unprecedented break from Swiss legal tradition, UBS turned over the names of more than 4,000 suspected U.S. tax evaders in 2010 as part of a deal to settle conspiracy charges. Since then, the United States has been going after those people, charging more Swiss bankers with conspiracy, and leaning on Switzerland to name more names.
Other names came from a bank employee-turned-informant at the LGT Bank in Liechtenstein. And the IRS has been tracking down holders of credit cards issued from Caribbean hideaways, because the cards are a popular way to tap secret funds.
“The noose is tightening on those who want to hide money overseas,” said J. Richard Harvey, a former senior adviser to the IRS commissioner.