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The IRS recently awarded Bradley C. Birkenfeld a record amount of $140 Million under the new and improved Whistle-Blower program.
Mr. Birkenfeld was a former banker at UBS, and the IRS acknowledged that he was an integral source in helping expose the income shielding techniques employed by the Swiss banking system–long a destination for American tax cheats.
What makes this case so interesting is not only the high reward Mr. Birkenfeld received, but also that Mr. Birkenfeld himself is a criminal who was recently released from prison after being sentenced to 40 months for fraud and withholding information from investigators. With nothing left to lose, Mr. Birkenfeld spilled the beans. While the IRS is technically allowed to deny Whistle-Blower rewards to those that withhold information, they were afraid that if they did, it could scare away other potential Whistle-Blowers due to the high-profile nature of this case.
It appears the IRS made the correct decision. UBS settled its case with the United States for $740 Million and turned over the names of some 5,000 clients who potentially could have been evading taxes. Furthermore, with the Swiss banking system now exposed, it spurred scores of taxpayers to partake in the IRS Amnesty Program–where those that have been hiding money could pay their taxes without the fear of penalties or prosecution. The Amnesty Program has since collected over $5 Billion from UBS clients.
The question is will the IRS continue it’s practice of rewarding criminals who only come clean once they are caught? Or will they invoke their right to deny rewards?