Capitol Hill will scrutinize Swiss banks’ tax-evasion role next week
Swiss banks are set to be in Capitol Hill’s crosshairs next week over tax evasion.
Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, is planning to lead the latest tax-evasion hearing in the permanent subcommittee on investigations, which he heads.
The focus this time is the status of efforts to hold Swiss banks and their U.S. clients accountable for what the panel describes as “unpaid taxes on billions of dollars in hidden assets.” Levin last May led a hearing on Apple Inc.’s tax practices, charging the company with using gimmicks to avoid taxes.
It’s not the first time Levin and the subcommittee have investigated Swiss banks. In 2008, a six-month-long probe found that Swiss banking giant UBS and Liechtenstein’s LGT Bank used practices that resulted in tax evasion by their U.S. clients.
Levin said in July 2008 that UBS gave clients “secrecy” and that the bank shouldn’t be allowed to do business in the U.S. “unless they clean up their act.” At the time, a UBS executive said the bank would no longer provide “undeclared” accounts to U.S. citizens.
The subcommittee also held a hearing about obtaining names of U.S. clients with Swiss accounts in 2009.
Last month, more than 100 Swiss banks and other institutions signaled they will seek agreements and give information to U.S. authorities investigating suspected offshore tax evasion by Americans.
Representatives from a Swiss bank and the U.S. Justice Department will testify, the subcommittee said. Witnesses will be announced Monday.
The announcement of the hearing comes a day after the Federal Reserve passed new rules for foreign banks operating in the U.S. Those rules will subject UBS, Deutsche Bank and other large lenders with U.S. operations to the Fed’s requirements for capital, debt levels and “stress tests.”