Alright, alright, alright. We knew this was possible. Let's try to keep things civil. HSBC […]
Back in February, the IRS announced that it would be giving offshore bank account holders another chance to come clean on their tax-avoiding ways. Tax amnesty 1.0 went pretty well and last year, the IRS had a whale of time sticking it to UBS and a number of customers who were holding out. But in all honesty, we all know that picking off a bunch of blondes with above-average chocolatiering skills was some low-hanging fruit. Today the IRS, along with the DOJ, announced their next target of their sniffing-out-offshore-bank-account world tour. HSBC India! – come on down!
The United States is seeking an order from a federal court in San Francisco authorizing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to request information from HSBC Bank USA, N.A. about U.S. residents who may be using accounts at The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation in India (HSBC India) to evade federal income taxes, the Justice Department announced today.
The government filed a petition with the court to allow the IRS to serve what is known as a “John Doe” summons on the bank. The IRS uses a John Doe summons to obtain information about possible tax fraud by people whose identities are unknown. If approved, the John Doe summons would direct HSBC USA to produce records identifying U.S. taxpayers with accounts at HSBC India, many of whom are believed by the government to have hidden their accounts from the IRS.
And if anyone is getting the idea that this is an HSBC/Hong Kong/India issue, Doug Shulman would like you to know that this is not personal, it’s simply the IRS doing the Treasury’s dirty work, “The IRS continues to focus its attention on international tax evasion,” the Commish said. “This summons request is focused on obtaining more information to help us determine if additional actions are needed. As I’ve said all along, our international efforts are not about just one country or one bank – it’s about our wider effort to ensure compliance with the nation’s tax laws.”
The Treasury isn’t going to fill itself now, is it?
A report in Bloomberg apparently thinks so.
From the ‘Berg:
HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA), Europe’s biggest lender, was warned twice by auditors that entrusting as much as $8 billion in client funds to Bernard Madoff opened it up to “fraud and operational risks.”
KPMG LLP told the London-based bank about the risks in 2006 and 2008 reports. The firm was hired to review how Madoff invested and accounted for the funds, for which HSBC served as custodian. KPMG reported 25 such risks in 2006, and in 2008 found 28, according to copies of the reports obtained by Bloomberg News.
Okay l there for two before everyone gets too excited. Let’s just get one thing straight right off the bat – KPMG probably leaked these reports to Bloomberg (I only say probably because I don’t know for an absolute fact but – COME ON – who else?). Secondly, even though the report says “warned twice by auditors” this was not an audit performed by KPMG; it was “[a] review how Madoff invested and accounted for the funds.” What exactly that entails isn’t clear; possibly agreed-upon procedures? Anyway, here’s what the story says were in the two reports:
In the list of risks in KPMG’s report, number 2 was that “BLM embezzles client funds,” using the initials as shorthand for Bernard L. Madoff. To prevent it, KPMG recommended in both 2006 and 2008 that HSBC “establish a process to monitor monthly statements” and reconcile them with contributions from clients.
The 2006 report listed fraud risk number 5 as “client cash is diverted for personal gain” and risk number 18 as “trade is a sham in order to divert client cash.” It went on to say there were concerns “Madoff LLC falsely reports buy/sell trades without actually executing in order to earn commissions” and “BLM falsifies accounting records which are provided to HSBC.”
KPMG reviewed samples of trades and account statements for both its 2006 and 2008 reports to test the risks and detected no discrepancies, the reports said. Even so, the firm suggested HSBC “consider undertaking a periodic review which includes tracing a sample of client trades back to the bulk order.”
After reading that you might think that KPMG hit a home run but what if the “risk factors” listed are just standard boilerplate risks that are included in every single one of these reports? If that’s the case, then KPMG was slapping in the applicable information as it related to BLM, handed it over and collected a nice fee. Maybe KPMG was all over this but there’s no way to know because A) Bloomberg didn’t republish the reports in full; B) Other KPMG teams close to Madoff are getting their asses sued which means they either ignored the risks or couldn’t get a hold of these two reports and C) HSBC throws KPMG under the bus, essentially saying that they were duped by Berns:
HSBC confirmed hiring KPMG in 2005 and 2008 to review Madoff’s firm, adding it now believed Madoff had tricked the auditors. “It appears from U.S. government filings that Madoff and his employees foiled these reviews by, among other things, providing forged documentation to KPMG,” the bank said in an e- mailed statement.
“KPMG did not conclude in either of its reports that a fraud was being committed by Madoff,” HSBC said. “HSBC did not know that a fraud was being committed and lost $1 billion of its own assets as a victim.”
So did KPMG warn HSBC or not? This Bloomberg story seems to think so but there are is a lot of evidence that KPMG was just as clueless as as everyone else who didn’t walk – or run away screaming, arms flailing – away from Madoff.
Accounting News Roundup: IRS Probing HSBC Clients with Accounts in Asia; Saints Deny State Money Was Taxable; Pot Tax Helps Helps Another California Budget | 07.07.10
HSBC Clients With Asian Accounts Said to Face Probe [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
“The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation of HSBC Holdings Plc clients who may have failed to disclose accounts in India or Singapore to the Internal Revenue Service, according to three people familiar with the matter.
‘This is a global initiative by IRS and the Department of Justice,’ said Robert McKenzie, an attorney at Arnstein & Lehr in Chicago who said he spoke to two people who got letters.
The probes show how the U.S. is expanding its crackdown on offshore tax evasion beyond Switzerland and UBS AG, the largest Swiss bank, s a tax lawyer at Greenberg Traurig LLP in New York. London-based HSBC is Europe’s biggest lender by market value.
‘It’s clear that the IRS and the Department of Justice are intending to pursue other depositors outside of Switzerland,’ Kaplan said. ‘They’ve announced it before, and they are moving forward in that regard.’ “
A.T. Kearney, Booz Call Off Merger Talks [WSJ]
“A.T. Kearney Inc. and Booz & Co. called off discussions about a possible merger that would have given the two midsize firms greater scale in a highly competitive industry.
The two have flirted with each other multiple times over the years without completing a deal. The most recent talks occurred on and off over the past six months, says a person familiar with the matter.
The combined firm would still have been smaller than market leaders such as Deloitte LLP, McKinsey & Co. and Accenture Ltd in an industry where scale is increasingly important in wooing global business.”
Did Tax Ploy Help Saints Win Super Bowl? [Forbes]
If you feel so inclined, you could probably blame this on Reggie Bush but otherwise it’s probably due to some clever tax attorneys, “In a just-filed U.S. Tax Court lawsuit, the partnership owning the Saints acknowledges that it didn’t treat an $8.5 million annual payment from the state of Louisiana as income and therefore didn’t pay taxes on the sum. Rather, the team said the money was an addition to “working capital” and a nontaxable transaction.
The Internal Revenue Service insists the money should have been included in income by the franchise, owned for a quarter-century by auto dealer Thomas M. Benson Jr. The Tax Court case challenges that position.”
Pot Tax Helping Long Beach Plug Budget Deficit Faces Vote in California [Bloomberg]
“The city council of Long Beach, California, voted last night to pursue taxes on medical marijuana dispensaries, part of what may become a wave of communities turning to such proceeds to plug budget deficits.
The Los Angeles suburb with a population of almost 500,000 scheduled a public hearing on the drug levy for Aug. 3. If the council later approves the wording, a ballot initiative establishing a 5 percent tax on the city’s 35 dispensaries could go to voters in November, according to Lori Ann Farrell, Long Beach’s director of financial management.”
IRS Disbars CPA for Relying on Client’s Income and Expense Numbers [Tax Lawyer’s Blog]
How much due diligence should a tax preparer perform to be comfortable with their clients numbers?
Ex-Qwest Accountant Says SEC Should Be Sanctioned [CBS4]
“The SEC has said [James] Kozlowski hasn’t shown that it acted in bad faith. It has accused him of ‘theatrical conduct,’ including filing ‘numerous losing motions.’ Kozlowski’s attorneys dispute that.”