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Old 08-14-2009, 11:27 AM   #286
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The problem is that the people with those accounts were led to believe they'd be safe and now they're being ratted out. If they were doing something 'illegal' or 'wrong' then they should have been notified immediately by the bank they wanted no part of it.
These people are not stupid, they knew what they were doing was illegal, everyone knows what they are doing is illegal. No one was lead to believe anything.

That's like saying the guy who buried the body 5 years ago was lead to believe he was safe and got away with it.
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Old 08-14-2009, 11:45 AM   #287
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The problem is that the people with those accounts were led to believe they'd be safe and now they're being ratted out. If they were doing something 'illegal' or 'wrong' then they should have been notified immediately by the bank they wanted no part of it. Because they let them have their private account, they were endorsing their actions. Those people had a right to feel safe. This is just another example of the arbitrary, over-reaching intrusiveness the government is involved in, and to me it's scary these 'big brother' things are getting more common and tightening up instead of loosening. I see it as a loss of our personal freedoms. Those accounts have always been an option for the rich, and if no one has gone after them until now, it seems very wrong to start after all these years. I mean, if it was such a 'crime' why has it lasted so long? It's not, it's just another way for the government to stick its long nose into your business and let you know you're not safe anywhere.
Damn straight. If I've been killing people and my neighbor's been letting me hide the bodies in his basement for years, he's got no buisness suddenly deciding to turn me in and the government has no business sticking their nose in my private life. I have a right to feel safe after all. Geez.

Government busybodies. . .
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Old 08-14-2009, 11:46 AM   #288
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^In fairness though, I think the assumption with AnnRKey is that taxation itself is a crime and people who manage to circumvent tax law ought to be allowed to get away with it. It's a kind of civil disobedience, no?
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Old 08-14-2009, 11:50 AM   #289
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^In fairness though, I think the assumption with AnnRKey is that taxation itself is a crime and people who manage to circumvent tax law ought to be allowed to get away with it. It's a kind of civil disobedience, no?
I've always wondered how those who fly into such a rage about taxes (granted, I doubt any of us like them), expect society to function without them. How do they think we pay for things like schools, infrastructure, Social Security, Medicare/aid, public lands and countless other important aspects of our lives that we take for granted? It's bizarre.
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Old 08-14-2009, 11:54 AM   #290
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^In fairness though, I think the assumption with AnnRKey is that taxation itself is a crime and people who manage to circumvent tax law ought to be allowed to get away with it. It's a kind of civil disobedience, no?
I think that was one of f-guy's argument, but I haven't heard her express that, at least not in so many words...

Regardless, it's hard to prove, especially for those that are making millions by means that many would find to be unethical.

Even the civil disobedient spent a night in jail for their cause...

And the idea that any taxation whatsoever is criminal is just ridiculous.
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Old 08-14-2009, 12:04 PM   #291
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I've always wondered how those who fly into such a rage about taxes (granted, I doubt any of us like them), expect society to function without them. How do they think we pay for things like schools, infrastructure, Social Security, Medicare/aid, public lands and countless other important aspects of our lives that we take for granted? It's bizarre.
Shoot, NOBODY likes taxes. I always find salary quotes hilarious. It's like tell me how much I'm REALLY making. . . But yes, obviously we need them if we expect society to function. I suppose the hyperconservative would say all the items listed above would function better in the free market.
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Old 08-14-2009, 12:04 PM   #292
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Yes, I agree with Finance Guy.

I believe that if people must be taxed we should have a direct say in how our money is used, not through crooked representatives who bend to lobbyists and special interest. But on the subject of the Swiss bank accounts, this is something I had always assumed was okay and was shocked to hear about the SS type crackdown. Also you have to consider that the rich Americans who put money in there also have regular accounts in the US with other money in them, because if they reported nothing to the IRS they'd have been seen as suspicious years ago. That means they were paying some taxes, but tried to shelter some other money. What's wrong with that? After all isn't that why your beloved U2 moved their business to Holland, to avoid taxes? Other stars such as Bowie, Jagger and Plant have at times lived abroad to avoid taxes. Are they criminals to you? I wouldn't be surprised if all of them also have secret Swiss accounts. Are other countries going after their people, or just the US?

Well, I still have one more option, if I ever win the lotto, I'm going to take all the money out of the bank and bury it in jars. That way there will be no paper trail and they'll never know just what I have!
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Old 08-14-2009, 12:06 PM   #293
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Yes, but between tens thousands of people, which makes it sound a lot less dramatic. Now, fair enough, it works out at a not insubstantial over $288k per bank account holder, but hidden in the detail there could be a small number of very large accounts distorting the average.
Throwing around arbitrary numbers here for the sake of debate, having 100 people who are evading $10 million in taxes each is probably more likely to be prosecuted than 100,000 people owing $10,000 each, because the offenses are far more egregious and the cost of prosecuting 100 large offenders is far cheaper than pursuing 100,000 smaller offenders. Why wouldn't the government want to pursue these cases?

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Well - and purely for the sake of argument - I think it is entirely possible to argue that tax evasion is a morally correct choice, if the tax evader has the perception, for example, that the taxes will be used to bail out banks, finance foreign invasions, or support the lifestyles of junkies. That perception might even be grounded in a degree of evidence.
Morality is not law, and no government allows its citizens these kinds of rights. But, frankly, I doubt even the smallest minority of tax evaders ever have this kind of altruism in mind, except as a secondary justification after the fact. The primary motive is always greed. I'm pretty sure that murderers can find some kind of "moral justification" for their crimes too.

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But US sentencing policies re white collar crime are extremely severe. I don't know of too many jurisdictions where the penalties for white collar crime are more severe. China, perhaps. I really don't know how it can be argued that, in the US, white collar criminals are given a slap on the wrist.
I'd love to see the stats regarding average white collar crime that doesn't make the news headlines versus the ones that do. The Bernie Madoffs of the world do get found guilty and sentenced, but statistically speaking, much of the time, white collar crime is treated lightly.

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I don't think its a case of authorities looking the other way or not looking the other way, I think its a case of authorities pursuing alleged tax evaders across international borders in a pretty aggressive fashion, at least by historical standards. Are we going to be consistent and allow an Iranian government legal action to sequester assets held by Iranian expats in the US if the Iranian government claims that taxes have not been paid on them at source? To be blunt this case could be seen as a large nation bullying a small one into handing over confidential data - and I don't deny that some of these tax evaders probably deserved to get caught, particularly if the monies were proceeds of crimes other than just tax evasion.
The main trouble is that the level of confidentiality that Switzerland has in banking is atypical. Open a bank account in most nations around the world, and you will require a verifiable name, address, and tax ID number. The only reason to mandate this level of secrecy is to aid in criminal tax evasion or large-scale embezzlement, either in the private, corporate sphere (hiding assets from investors or regulators) or even in the governmental sphere (a corrupt government/dictator stealing the equivalent of billions of dollars from the treasury for their own personal use). Switzerland's behaviour is no different than that of a third-world "banana republic" when it comes to bank secrecy, and the rest of the developed world has been able to engage in world-class financial services with adequate consumer privacy without resorting to customer anonymity.

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Well, it's true that there were court hearings, but the bank account holders don't seem to have been represented. Even in an extradition case, I assume the subject has the right to be legally represented.
Of course, wouldn't one's mere presence be an implicit admission of guilt in front of the courts? That's the trouble with anonymity. Courts generally demand transparency.

Regardless, those prosecuted by the government will have their day in court. It is also worth mentioning that the U.S. government has a tax amnesty through most of September, in which offenders will avoid criminal prosecution, in exchange for paying all relevant back taxes and standard IRS penalties for being late.
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Old 08-14-2009, 12:16 PM   #294
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But on the subject of the Swiss bank accounts, this is something I had always assumed was okay and was shocked to hear about the SS type crackdown. Also you have to consider that the rich Americans who put money in there also have regular accounts in the US with other money in them, because if they reported nothing to the IRS they'd have been seen as suspicious years ago. That means they were paying some taxes, but tried to shelter some other money. What's wrong with that? After all isn't that why your beloved U2 moved their business to Holland, to avoid taxes? Other stars such as Bowie, Jagger and Plant have at times lived abroad to avoid taxes. Are they criminals to you?
Having a Swiss bank account is not, in itself, criminal (as far as I know), as long as all worldwide foreign income is reported on your tax forms. The criminal act is putting money abroad and secretly with the intent of misreporting your income and not paying the required taxes on them.

As for U2 and other wealthy entities that move their business operations abroad, as long as they are following all relevant tax laws, there's nothing you can really do about it. One thing that U.S. citizens have to deal with that most other nations' citizens do not are having to report worldwide income to the IRS even if legally resident abroad. The only recourse here would be to renounce U.S. citizenship entirely, although U.S. law still, technically speaking, will impose U.S. tax liability on these individuals for up to 10 years after renunciation, if it is deemed that they have renounced their U.S. citizenship for purposes of avoiding taxes.

Perhaps an argument can be constructed that the above is overly zealous, but I have a hunch that the vast majority of U.S. citizens who hold secret Swiss accounts for purposes of tax evasion are U.S. citizens with no other residency/nationality that are currently living in the U.S. and making their money in the U.S. And for these individuals, what kind of "moral defence" can we really ascribe to this?
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Old 08-14-2009, 01:29 PM   #295
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But on the subject of the Swiss bank accounts, this is something I had always assumed was okay and was shocked to hear about the SS type crackdown. Also you have to consider that the rich Americans who put money in there also have regular accounts in the US with other money in them, because if they reported nothing to the IRS they'd have been seen as suspicious years ago. That means they were paying some taxes, but tried to shelter some other money. What's wrong with that?
What's wrong with that? Besides being illegal? It would be like you claiming enough to put you under the poverty line so you wouldn't have to owe or you actually collect from the government, as you hide the rest. You don't see anything wrong with that?


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After all isn't that why your beloved U2 moved their business to Holland, to avoid taxes?
Not exactly. U2 are not avoiding taxes they just moved their business to a place that taxes less and gives more to Africa aid. BUT, U2's income is not primarily in one country or another, and Holland was only a small part of their income, it's just the writing portion. They still pay US taxes when touring in the US, or sale albums in the US, etc...

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Well, I still have one more option, if I ever win the lotto, I'm going to take all the money out of the bank and bury it in jars. That way there will be no paper trail and they'll never know just what I have!
That's not how it works. You honestly think they hand you the money without filing a paper trail? Really?
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Old 08-14-2009, 01:45 PM   #296
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Well, I still have one more option, if I ever win the lotto, I'm going to take all the money out of the bank and bury it in jars. That way there will be no paper trail and they'll never know just what I have!
By the way, they do withhold U.S. federal taxes before the state lotteries pay out. Feel free to bury the rest in the backyard for all they care.
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Old 08-14-2009, 07:39 PM   #297
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These private institutions are not only siphoning funds and thereby eroding the domestic tax base of the aformentioned foreign governments, but they are actually profiting while doing so. We are not simply talking about them being complicit in hiding funds and thus aiding tax evasion; they are charging significant fees (of course still lower than the tax rate would be for the individuals hiding their assets) and as such are active participants in the crime being committed. The fees that are typically associated with these accounts are specifically set at high rates because the Swiss know exactly why the assets are being shielded in their banks.
Absolutely, it's called a free market for tax services; the Swiss were entrepreneurs in this market space until the US government (which you're happy to condemn when it suits your views) came down hard and heavy and decided to completely ignore legal precedent and redraw the rules of the game to suit itself.

The argument that the Swiss banks charged above average fees, actually, is a good one for the case I am making. I am not making the case that these funds are not the proceeds of tax evasion. I have absolutely no idea whether they are or not - and neither do you - though it's interesting to see you being so trusting of the US government on this issue. I am simply making a moral case that governments shouldn't have the right to go hunting down their own 'subjects' around the globe.

These banks, at the very least, had a gentleman's agreement with their customers not to reveal and betray private details of the customers - this has been the case in Swiss banking world for generations - and then the bullying and blustering US IRS - perhaps on the direct orders of Obama, we don't know - came in and broke all the rules. A trifle unfair, at the least, but maybe that's hard to see if we start from the mindset that government is inherently right, true and proper.

Please explain to me why this whole process is any different, at its essence, to kidnapping allleged terrorists and transporting them against their will to places like Gitmo.

We live in strange and dangerous times, when otherwise normal thinking citizens think it is ok - praiseworthy, even - for government to have such aggressively authoritarian power.

I will deal with Melon's most interesting points later.
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Old 08-14-2009, 07:47 PM   #298
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Old 08-15-2009, 02:48 AM   #299
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Absolutely, it's called a free market for tax services; the Swiss were entrepreneurs in this market space until the US government (which you're happy to condemn when it suits your views) came down hard and heavy and decided to completely ignore legal precedent and redraw the rules of the game to suit itself.
The US government (and any legislative branch) in a common law jurisdiction is most certainly not bound by legal precedent. They are not a lower court, and in fact, it's the legislative branch of government that is free to basically create any law they please. I'm kind of confused by why you'd bring legal precedent in here or make reference to "redrawing the rules" when in fact, this is what the government does in respect of basically every piece of legislation. It is then up to the courts to interpret the legislation, and it falls to the lower courts to follow legal precedent of the appellate courts, although even the highest level courts are most certainly free to, and most certainly do reverse themselves (and hence the aformentioned precedent).

Kind of an odd thing to say, really.
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Old 08-15-2009, 03:09 AM   #300
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It's not an odd thing to say if one's starting point is that avoidance (by any means) of taxation is an act of nobility.

I say, it's not. You want fucking community values, financeguy? And yet are ok with this sort of thing?

To elaborate: I am arguing, as I always do, that a humane society has to be paid for by someone. The mechanisms aren't there to just throw it on families and small town main streets, unless we could somehow wish away two centuries of industrial and social history. In my view, those who steal from the common-wealth are little better than traitors.

So yeah, there is a level of unfair snark in the above, but no worse than what you routinely dish out.
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