The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Dean A. Zerbe (202) 674-1960
Lindsey M. Williams  (202) 342-1903

Modest Results of IRS Amnesty Program Highlight Need for More Whistleblowers

Government is Discouraging Future Tax Whistleblowers


Tomorrow marks the end of
the IRS' amnesty program for special voluntary disclosures by taxpayers
with unreported income from hidden offshore accounts.

The entire basis for the IRS amnesty program was due to the
efforts of one whistleblower - Brad Birkenfeld - who blew the whistle
on UBS and the 19,000 undisclosed accounts held by U.S. taxpayers. The
U.S. Government has stated this in court:

"I will say that
without Mr. Birkenfeld walking into the door of the Department of
Justice in the Summer of 2007, I doubt as of today that this massive
fraud scheme would have been discovered by the United States

The Court asked the U.S. Government: "Now, you
said something that has great significance and I just want to make sure
that I am clear on your statement, and that is that but for Mr.
Birkenfeld this scheme would still be ongoing?" The U.S. Government
replied: "I have no reasons to
believe that we would have had any other means to have disclosed what
was going on but for an insider in that scheme providing detailed
information, which Mr. Birkenfeld did." See
Transcript of Sentencing before Honorable William Zloch U.S. District
Court, Southern District of Florida, August 21, 2009 (p. 12, 14).

Mr. Birkenfeld being the sole reason that the IRS was able to move
forward with the tax amnesty program, the U.S. Government has
prosecuted Mr. Birkenfeld.

"There is one reason, and one reason only
that there is an IRS amnesty program - because Brad Birkenfeld came
forward and blew the whistle. The prosecution of Brad Birkenfeld, the
most important whistleblower in U.S. history, has done incredible
damage by discouraging other whistleblowers from coming forward. The
day that Brad goes to jail will be a national holiday in Switzerland
and other tax haven countries," said Stephen M. Kohn, Executive
Director of the
National Whistleblowers Center (NWC).

"The IRS needs to put
away the celebratory firecrackers. The amnesty program has gotten at
best a thimble of the offshore tax
cheats. Many people with big offshore accounts look at the prosecution
of the whistleblower Brad Birkenfeld and have concluded that the IRS is
not really serious about going after offshore tax fraud. A serious
effort by the IRS to go after offshore tax cheats would be to reward
and encourage whistleblowers - not put them in jail. As the Department
of Justice admitted in court, the way you are going to find out about
offshore tax cheats is through insiders. The strong signal being sent
right now by the IRS and the DoJ is to tell the insiders who want to
blow the whistle to stay on the outside. Nothing is making Swiss
bankers and their clients sleep more soundly at night then the IRS
discouraging whistleblowers," said Dean Zerbe, Special Counsel for the
NWC and
attorney at Zerbe, Fingeret, Frank and Jadav law firm representing Mr.
Birkenfeld in his claim for a reward from the IRS.

Since 1988, the NWC and attorneys associated with it have supported whistleblowers in the courts and before Congress and achieved victories for environmental protection, government contract fraud, nuclear safety and government and corporate accountability.