Are you a tax cheat?
If you are, or are even thinking about being one – the Internal Revenue Service wants you and everyone you know to hear about their latest sweepstakes result.
A man named Bradley Birkenfeld who was caught cheating on his taxes recently collected a one-day payout of $104 million for tattling on his former employer, Swiss bank UBS (NYSE: UBS).
The message being sent to taxpayers around the globe: everyone you know is looking at a potentially large payday if they turn you in. Even if they only suspect that you’re a tax cheat, if they turn you in and it turns out you are skimming some of Uncle Sam’s money off the top, the whistleblower will get a nice check.
It could be the easiest money you ever make.
As Mr. Birkenfeld’s lawyers said yesterday in the Financial Times, “The IRS today sent 104 million messages to whistleblowers around the world that there is now a safe and secure way to report tax fraud and that the IRS is paying awards.”
I’m not saying that I think it’s right or wrong to cheat on your taxes. I’m making no judgment on Mr. Birkenfeld, or UBS, because I don’t know the details of the case.
I’m just pointing out something that we should all be aware of as our government is forced to take more and more drastic steps to keep itself solvent.
Even if you’re completely blameless and squeaky clean in your financial dealings, all it takes is one jealous or angry acquaintance – or even someone you know who gets in trouble with the law – to throw you to the wolves. At the very least you might get a visit from an IRS auditor.
At the worst, you could get a house call from a dozen or so amped up policemen wearing full military garb – facemasks, body armor, battering rams, automatic rifles and some not-so-nice attitudes.
Exactly how sure are you that everything you’ve ever done in your financial life is completely legal – according to the thousands of pages of income tax law, thousands more of investment law, thousands more of international finance law?
Odds are, you’ve stepped out of bounds in one way or another, even if you didn’t mean to. The Feds don’t care about intent. No matter how honestly you try to come by your money you could be in danger from prosecution if the state thinks you’ve done something wrong.
So please be careful. Don’t be made an example of.