A Swiss bank at the center of U.S. tax authorities’ investigation into secret offshore accounts has asked a U.S. court to reject demands by the IRS for confidential information about its American clients.
UBS plans to argue before a federal court in Florida that such a disclosure would violate Switzerland’s bank secrecy laws, according to media reports.
"Despite the clear historical record, the IRS now asks this court to force a Swiss financial institution and its employees, over the express objection of the Swiss government, to violate Swiss law by producing a massive quantity of confidential account information located exclusively in Switzerland," UBS said in its filing.
According to Reuters, under a 1996 treaty, Switzerland may turn over account data only on a reasonable suspicion of tax fraud. However, Swiss law does not view tax evasion as a crime.
The IRS is pursuing a civil lawsuit against UBS seeking access to data on 52,000 wealthy Americans it claims are hiding nearly $15 billion of assets in Swiss bank accounts.
The U.S. government’s crackdown on what it sees as tax havens was prompted by the financial crisis and the costly stimulus bill as well as several rounds of bailouts that need to be paid for.
It gathered steam after last month’s G20 summit in London where global leaders pledged cooperation in pursuing the matter.