Getting Caught

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By Liz Zitzow - Ah, the joys of living in Europe. An hour break between client meetings isn’t being spent at a commercial dime-a-dozen Starbucks. Instead I sit in the Hungarian patisserie eating a bit of, well, I don’t know what it is, but it’s got chocolate and whipped cream and cakey bits and tastes divine. Who knew the Hungarians could give the French a run for their money? There’s me here, and two ladies meeting up for coffee, and two serving gals. Only in Europe would a place having a total of three customers be able to survive year in year out.

And it is in this lovely establishment that I write this week’s installment. Today’s rant and rail is the lovely fun of hidden offshore bank accounts. It’s exceedingly difficult these days for an American to have an offshore bank account that the IRS doesn’t know about. Almost all banks all around the world now participate in extensive money laundering regulations, whereby they check the identity of the account owner and, if American, report your income to the IRS or if European, report your income to your country of residence. Savvy law-breakers set up a series of sham corporations and shell entities to distance themselves from the money so that they can continue to hide it.

In Lichtenstein, a disgruntled employee of one of their banks (famous for client confidentiality and secrecy) last week blew the whistle on some of their biggest clients. Heads rolled at major corporations throughout Germany as “secret” banking clients were revealed to be executives of major corporations.

The idea that it was ever a good or safe idea to hide one’s money is false, however. Someday it always comes to light, and at that point, must be dealt with.

A closing though: In China, tax avoidance is a capital offense. Woe betide any Chinese people caught out by our disgruntled Lichtenstein bank employee.

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