U.S. seeks more UBS account records in tax battle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government sued UBS AG on Thursday, seeking disclosure to the Internal Revenue Service of thousands of the Swiss bank’s U.S. customers with secret accounts, the Justice Department said.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Miami came the day after UBS agreed to pay $780 million and identify certain U.S. clients in a deal to resolve criminal fraud charges that it assisted rich Americans to evade taxes.

The action came after U.S. tax authorities said a request for the records under a Swiss treaty may only result in the production of records for about 300 accounts.

According to the lawsuit, as many as 52,000 U.S. customers hid their UBS accounts from the government in violation of tax laws, the department said.

The government said in the suit that of those 52,000 secret accounts, about 20,000 contained securities and about 32,000 contained cash. According to a UBS document filed with the lawsuit, as of the mid-2000s, those secret accounts held about $14.8 billion in assets.

According to court documents, U.S. citizens failed to report and pay U.S. income taxes on income earned in those secret accounts.

The lawsuit also alleged that UBS helped hundreds of U.S. taxpayers set up dummy offshore companies, to make it easier for those taxpayers to avoid their reporting obligations under U.S. tax laws.

IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said, “We are committed to moving forward with the summons enforcement process. This action sends a strong signal to taxpayers hiding their money offshore. The IRS will be aggressive in pursuing people who shirk their obligations under the tax law.”

Reporting by James Vicini, Editing by Tim Dobbyn.