Politics & Government

U.S., Switzerland reach deal on UBS account records

Is the United States blasting open the wall of Swiss banking secrecy in the historic settlement reached Wednesday over customer records at Zurich-based UBS AG — or is it just getting a peek behind the curtain?

The answer lies in the details — if and when they are revealed.

On Wednesday, the U.S. government reached agreements with Switzerland and its largest bank that will give the Internal Revenue Service information on thousands of UBS customers suspected of using secret offshore accounts to evade income taxes.

According to a person familiar with the pact, the U.S. will get details on thousands of UBS' largest clients, although it may take some time, as the request will be handled through the established treaty process between the two governments.

"The parties have initialed agreements," Stuart D. Gibson, an attorney with the Justice Department's tax division in Washington, D.C., told U.S. District Judge Alan Gold in a conference call. "It will take a little time" to finalize the agreements, then the parties will file a "stipulation of dismissal" of the UBS suit.

The IRS has been seeking to enforce a "John Doe summons," demanding the names of 52,000 UBS customers with $14.8 billion in secret offshore accounts, citing evidence they likely broke U.S. tax law.

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