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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

UBS Whistleblower's Award Reminds Us Romneys Banked at UBS

Yesterday, the lawyers for Bradley Birkenfeld, the whistleblower in the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) tax evasion case, announced that he had received a reward of $104 million from the IRS, its largest-ever whistleblower award. Birkenfeld's ripping away the curtain of Swiss bank secrecy led to $5 billion in extra revenue for the U.S. government, including $780 million from UBS itself, which admitted helping thousands of Americans illegally evade taxes. Not only that, UBS turned over the names of 4500 American clients, and a subsequent amnesty program for Americans with foreign bank accounts in 2009 pulled in another 3000 names (via Matt Yglesias) as of shortly before its deadline. Many more have come in under 2011 and 2012 versions of the amnesty.

The big question behind all this is whether Mitt Romney took advantage of the 2009 amnesty, as Yglesias (link above) suggests. While John McCain saw 23 years of Romney's returns and said there was "nothing disqualifying" in them, he would not have seen Romney's 2009 return. This strengthens the circumstantial case that Romney wants to hide something from that year. So does the fact that Governor Romney declared a Swiss bank account in the one tax return he has released, 2010. Most important of all, the Swiss bank account ($3 million of Ann Romney's blind trust) was at UBS.

Given that the Obama campaign has said that five years of tax returns would be enough, one has to wonder just what could be so awful in his 2005-2009 returns that he still refuses to release them despite all the flak he has gotten over it. I can only think of a short list: tax rate under 13% one or more years, especially 0 federal taxes owed; penalties for under-reporting in prior years; the 2009 amnesty.

Oh, and one more: if his UBS account was one of the 4500 turned over to the IRS by UBS.

Have I missed any?

UPDATE: I see Linda Beale is thinking along the same lines I am.

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