MIAMI - More than 14,700 US taxpayers came forward to disclose billions in offshore bank accounts in 70 countries under a voluntary Internal Revenue Service program allowing most to avoid criminal prosecution as long as they pay what they owe, IRS officials said yesterday.
A flood of people came forward in the last days before the amnesty program expired Oct. 15, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said.
The final total far surpasses the number of taxpayers who disclose offshore accounts in a typical year - about 100 - and comes amid a broad US crackdown on international tax evasion at Swiss bank
“To put it simply, this is a historic milestone for the nation’s hardworking taxpayers,’’ Shulman said in a conference call from Washington.
The total in taxes, interest, and penalties collected from those in the voluntary disclosure program will be in the “billions of dollars,’’ Shulman said.
The disclosures involved accounts on every continent but Antarctica.
Taxpayers flocked to the amnesty program after the United States reached an agreement in August with the Swiss government and UBS to obtain names of 4,450 US taxpayers believed to be hiding assets in secret bank accounts. Earlier this year, UBS paid a $780 million penalty under a deferred prosecution agreement filed in a Florida federal court that included disclosure of an additional 150 names.
Seven of those people have been charged criminally, with at least two getting sentenced to prison time.
Shulman said the combination of the UBS disclosures and the amnesty program have fundamentally changed the offshore tax landscape, particularly in Switzerland, where bank secrecy was the tradition for centuries.
“It shows we are serious about piercing the veil of bank secrecy,’’ he said. “The whole game has changed.’’