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Swiss Bank Account Owners Handed Over to WikiLeaks

This article was written by in Taxes. 14 comments.

The global financial industry is more powerful than any government entity. Governments continually create regulations and laws to keep the industry in check, but the financial industry manages to find ways to skirt rules and convince the public that any regulation is bad for the world.

Even though Americans holding bank accounts in Switzerland in order to evade taxes is illegal, and even though some banks have eventually cooperated with the IRS by providing the names of some customers taking advantage of this type of tax haven, the practice continues. The more money you have, the more opportunities exist for you to operate outside the rules that bind most other citizens.

When WikiLeaks released information to reporters and news outlets that pertained to the U.S. State department, Visa and MasterCard, companies with no relation to the documents but with economic power, began refusing to process donations to the organization.

Following the recent speculation that WikiLeaks has private information about Bank of America to release, a former executive of the Swiss bank Julius Baer has provided 2,000 names of prominent individuals and companies that engaged in tax evasion through offshore, unreported accounts. The bank claims the documents are falsified, and the former executive is facing trial.

Is it wrong to evade taxes? What would you do if you had the opportunity and means to keep a big portion of your wealth and income outside of the eyes of the government?

New York Times
Photo: Oyvind Solstad

Published or updated January 17, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Cruxman

In the end one will all ways get caught. If it were me I would not do it! The penalty’s and fines I’m sure are far more than what the normal taxes are.

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avatar krantcents

I am in favor of evading taxes legally! Overseas accounts are illegal. Unfortunately, people in high incomes always find ways to evade taxes. They will move the money to another country.

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avatar Laure

Of course it’s not a good plan to evade taxes! The better way is to spend the time, effort, connections, etc to lobby for lower taxes in this country. If we had lower taxes but focused on tracking down tax evaders, we’d all be better off!

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avatar Yana

I love the idea of a Swiss bank account and financial privacy. There is nothing wrong with wanting financial privacy. It isn’t wrong to evade taxes in a legal manner. Breaking related laws is too risky, in my opinion. And living by the letter of the law while breaking the spirit of the law can be a fun challenge. If the spirit of the law is to exploit the citizen, that spirit begs to be broken.

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avatar SteveDH

The subtle difference here is evasion versus avoidance. It’s a game to avoid taxes and there are plenty of ways to do it without the threat of prison. The CFO of Enron went to jail for fraud but his wife went for evading taxes. (Ouch!) 401(k) plans, IRAs, charitable contributions, gifts to family and a host of other activities are available to avoid the dreaded tax man. But, evading taxes will get most of us in deep doo doo – unless you’ve been selected as the next Secretary of the Treasury, or are already a member of Congress, of course.

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avatar jim

Tax evasion is the term for illegally avoiding taxes. So of course that is wrong… its against the law.

Tax avoidance is when you try to avoid taxes by legal means. That is OK in my book in general. As long as you’re not doing anything so twisted its just exploiting an obvious loophole in the laws I see no reason against avoiding taxes by legal means.

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avatar gotr31

Tax evasion is illegal and those who do it are criminals. Like others have said find other legal ways to avoid taxes.

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avatar skylog

it is wrong and those who do it should be severely punished. although it probably still will not stop the practice, perhaps if they made the penalties so high, the only choice would be to not do it.

i am not in the position to have such problems, but i would like to believe if i were, i would pay my part as well as try to give a large percentage of my wealth to charity.

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avatar Squirrelers

Follow one’s moral compass and behave with integrity. It’s really as easy as that. I don’t see how evading taxes is a legitimate option, so I wouldn’t try to do it or recommend it. There are much more legitimate ways to make money than keeping what isn’t legally yours. I’m sure some might disagree, but that’s my view!

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avatar tbork84

It is wrong to break the law and hide income or assets from the tax man. I wish I had that kind of problem, but as Warren Buffet said at a over $4000-per-seat fundraiser for Hilary Clinton,“The 400 of us [here] pay a lower part of our income in taxes than our receptionists do, or our cleaning ladies, for that matter. If you’re in the luckiest 1 per cent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 per cent.”

So would it really be a problem when I would pay a lower rate in taxes than I do now?

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avatar skylog

i love that buffet quote.

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avatar eric

I’ve read that quote before and I like the thinking for sure :)

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avatar Harm

I’m sure earned income tax rates are higher for Mr. Buffet than for his
receptionist….and then maybe he should go to more $4000 a plate dinners
for ‘Doctors Without Borders’ or UNICEF than for Hilary Clinton.

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avatar Ryan@TheFinancialStudent

Except Warren Buffet doesn’t “earn” most of his money. He makes most of his money from capital gains, which are taxed at a lower (15% I think…) rate.

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