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U.S. moves to combat offshore tax evasion

The United States Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have issued what they describe as “comprehensive final regulations” to combat Caribbean and other offshore tax evasion.

The departments said the reporting and withholding tax provisions, commonly known as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), “target non-compliance by U.S. taxpayers using foreign accounts.

“The issuance of the final regulations marks a key step in establishing a common intergovernmental approach to combating tax evasion,” the statement said.

“These regulations provide additional certainty for financial institutions and government counterparts by finalizing the step-by-step process for U.S. account identification, information reporting, and withholding requirements for foreign financial institutions (FFIs), other foreign entities, and U.S. withholding agents,” it added.

Neal Wolin, deputy secretary of the Treasury Department, said the regulations “give the administration a powerful set of tools to combat offshore tax evasion effectively and efficiently.

“The final rules mark a critical milestone in international cooperation on these issues, and they provide important clarity for foreign and U.S. financial institutions,” he added.

The Treasury Department said the final regulations “build on intergovernmental agreements that foster international cooperation.”

The department said it has collaborated with Caribbean and other foreign governments to “develop and sign intergovernmental agreements that facilitate the effective and efficient implementation of FATCA by eliminating legal barriers to participation, reducing administrative burdens, and ensuring the participation of all non-exempt financial institutions in a partner jurisdiction.”

In order to reduce administrative burdens for financial institutions with operations in multiple jurisdictions, the Treasury Department said the final regulations “coordinate the obligations for financial institutions under the regulations and the intergovernmental agreements.”

Since the proposed regulations were published on Feb. 15, 2012, the U.S. Department of Treasury said it has collaborated with Caribbean and other foreign governments to develop two alternative model intergovernmental agreements “that facilitate the effective and efficient implementation of FATCA.”

It said these models serve as the basis for concluding bilateral agreements with interested jurisdictions and “help implement the law in a manner that removes domestic legal impediments to compliance, secures wide-spread participation by every non-exempt financial institution in the partner jurisdiction, fulfills FATCA’s policy objectives, and further reduces burdens on FFIs located in partner jurisdictions.”

The department said seven countries have already signed or initialed these agreements, identifying them as Norway, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Denmark, Ireland, Switzerland, and Spain.

Updated 1:03 pm, February 11, 2013:
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