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Wikileaks To Name Swiss Bank Tax Evaders 783

eldavojohn writes "The old cliche that the rich and corrupt hold all their money in Swiss bank accounts (to avoid taxation) may finally have a bit of transparency, as the news today is that Wikileaks has been handed a list of account holders tendered by Rudolf Elmer, former banker of Julius Baer. Julian Assange promises a 'full revelation' while Elmer cited his motivation as being: 'I want to let society know how this system works. It's damaging society.' This appears to be real, as Mr. Elmer is soon to appear before a Zurich regional court on charges of coercion as well as violations of Switzerland's strict banking secrecy laws. The public may soon find out that their favorite celebrity, politician or employer doesn't feel responsible to contribute financially to the commonwealth at the expense of privacy."
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Wikileaks To Name Swiss Bank Tax Evaders

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  • Re:Hit them back (Score:4, Interesting)

    by man_of_mr_e ( 217855 ) on Monday January 17, 2011 @12:14PM (#34904986)

    I think this is going to backfire on him. I think he believes that if he does something to help governments (allowing them to track down tax dodgers) that they may leave him alone.. I doubt it, usually national security trumps internal revenue.. but not always.

    It's also going to backfire because many of his supporters believe strongly in personal privacy (while oddly, wanting full transparency for everything else), and they will view this as WikiLeaks invading personal privacy. (it's not just the filthy rich that have "hidden" bank accounts).

  • by UncHellMatt ( 790153 ) on Monday January 17, 2011 @12:19PM (#34905070)
    Considering the love-fest for Google around these parts, but they've been effectively dodging taxes for a few years. Why would it be a shock if politicians, celebrities and sundry millionaires / billionaires do the same?

    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_44/b4201043146825.htm [businessweek.com]

    While I am all for businesses making a profit, I am NOT all for a multi-billion dollar company paying effectively 2.4% while I continue to pay nearly 30% of my income. The argument "Well, that gets turned into research and good pay for employees" still doesn't float IMO, when you have the higher executives of Google being paid millions. Reduce the salaries of those PHBs down to something reasonable, pay the rank and file programmers and researchers that money, and pay taxes like everyone else.
  • Re:Media whore (Score:5, Interesting)

    by upside ( 574799 ) on Monday January 17, 2011 @12:23PM (#34905124) Journal

    I don't care if he's a monkey and likes to play a recorder with his butt.

    It's a Good Thing (tm) this information is being made public.

    These negative responses are almost as juicy as the leaks themselves. You've left us wondering whether you're a tax evader, a Freedom Fry? Or maybe it's just jealousy or a secret crush... not trying hard enough to be an astroturfer.

  • by mrjatsun ( 543322 ) on Monday January 17, 2011 @12:26PM (#34905168)

    I'm getting sick of Assange's promises of all this great information they are "going to leak". He has all of this info on corruption in the US banking system, on rich people evading taxes, and a bunch of other info which will be released if he disappears.

    If he has information on illegal dealings, corruption, etc., release it.. Why the threats, why the talk? His current behavior is more like someone
    trying to shake down folks, not someone trying to uncover the truth.

  • by coolmadsi ( 823103 ) on Monday January 17, 2011 @01:31PM (#34906094) Homepage Journal

    If he has information on illegal dealings, corruption, etc., release it.. Why the threats, why the talk? His current behavior is more like someone trying to shake down folks, not someone trying to uncover the truth.

    A while ago (last year I think) when some wikileak documents were released, they were criticized for not redacting sufficiently (I recall that some analysis into found that they were, and the criticism was mostly unfounded, of the informant names that were actually available, one was dead and one was a double agent or something like that). I suspect now the time between getting a leak and releasing it has increased a lot, due to an increase in checking and double checking, to avoid those sort of criticisms again.

    I guess its kind of like a double edged sword; they'll either be criticised for not allowing sufficient time for redaction, or criticised for taking some time to release something.

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:4, Interesting)

    by raddan ( 519638 ) * on Monday January 17, 2011 @01:40PM (#34906190)
    I sort of wonder if this is an olive branch from Wikileaks to the US government. After all, the United States has been pressuring Switzerland to allow investigators to peek inside Swiss accounts for awhile now. You may recall that the US offered amnesty [msn.com] to tax evaders using Swiss accounts who 'fessed-up a couple years ago. This provides some incentive to the US government to ease up a bit on Wikileaks.
  • by calzones ( 890942 ) on Monday January 17, 2011 @01:56PM (#34906448)

    That's true at face value, however:

    The more profit the company keeps, the better valued and compensated the executives are. Also, this increases the value of the stock, which increases the net worth and credit worthiness of the executives.

    The richer the company, the more lavish the perks the employees, and particularly the executives enjoy. For example, a country club membership so they can make sales.... a yacht to entertain business partners with... first class travel around the world, including paying for the spouse to accompany... all considered as a business expenses. Industry parties... the list goes on.

    Look, I think it's a good idea not to tax businesses at all, because they provide employment. However, I do think it's wrong wrong wrong, to allow businesses to write off expenses and assets that only (and disproportionately) favor the executives while rank and file employees get shafted.

    I think a company's executive leadership should be forced to make a choice: either disburse funds throughout all employees in such a way as to avoid taxation penalties, or... get taxed exponentially up the ass relative to the discrepancy in executive NET WORTH (not pay) vs lowest rank pay factoring in things like cash balance and stock worth of the company. This would make it less attractive to throw parties and more attractive to spend money on the employees so as to avoid paying more taxes yourself, as an executive. Alternatively, if you don't want to compensate your employees more, because you feel the company needs to save money for future projects, then you would either have to reduce your salary, or pay substantially more taxes (which would benefit society if not your employees).

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:4, Interesting)

    by khallow ( 566160 ) on Monday January 17, 2011 @02:04PM (#34906562)

    Surprisingly, not much lower.

    Right. It's not just how government spends money.

    Let's start with the on topic portion first. I've seen it claimed that the convolutions and writhing that the rich go through to minimize or even illegally evade taxes saps about 1% in absolute value from the US GDP. My impression is that a raw 2% increase in growth separates current levels of growth from the best decade to decade growth, the US has ever had. So a considerable portion of that, perhaps as much as half, can be obtained merely by vastly simplifying the tax codes.

    A lot of mileage can be gained by targeting spending that changes peoples' behavior in adverse ways, such as subsidized educational loans and financial assistance, and mandated employer health insurance. Sure, it's nice to have better educated people and the security of health insurance, but these expenses increase faster than GDP (much less inflation) and are unsustainable in the long run. In the meantime, people are encouraged to go to college right after high school graduation even when they shouldn't (too immature, unready, and/or would be better off getting a job right now) and to the detriment of jobs that don't require college degrees, but still require significant training.

    The main problem with health care is that it is open-ended. You can always consume vastly more tests, longer hospital stays, ever more expensive equipment, etc. And this health care is funded mostly by open-ended health insurance (which is practically only limited by co-payments paid by the insuree) and government based health care (Medicare/Medicaid, veteran health care, government health benefits, etc). It's not helpful that government at the federal and state levels also limits supply of health care (professional licensing, regulation on who can do what, and the opening of new health care facilities) and opens health care providers to remarkable malpractice liability. End result is that patients consume too much and too expensive health care directly and indirectly (through malpractice and employer/government paid health benefits).

    Then there are subsidies which actively harm US interests. A couple of key examples are farm subsidies and "cost plus" contracts (a popular feature of defense R&D and related spending, where the contractor is paid a base amount plus an additional amount based on "costs" to a fixed cap).

    There's an emphasis on infrastructure building at the expense of infrastructure maintenance. For example, high speed train projects can obtain considerable funds in order to build the rail and buy the trains. But there's no money to support projects which notoriously aren't covered by ridership revenue. These projects are also a great vehicle for corruption. Those in the know can buy land near the rail projects ahead of time and reap the profits. The best part is that this sort of corruption doesn't show in the bottom line for government spending.

    Speaking of wealth redistribution projects, a really big and nonsensical one is the movement of wealth via Social Security from the young to the elderly. So why does a retiree need wealth more than a young person trying to get educated, raise a family, and enter the workforce? It doesn't make sense from a societal point of view. If you want to take care of the elderly, there are cheaper and more effective ways to do it (such as welfare for poor or sick elderly, for example). As it stands, the US makes all workers about 15% more expensive. That's a big jump and about 10% logarithmically of the difference between a US worker and a Chinese worker, for example. Social Security also results in vast liabilities that can't be honored (it's yet another program where the current promised costs increase faster than GDP does).

    For example, if working for the agencies controlling the markets paid much better than working in those markets, do you think we would have the problems we have now? Would it not be better to have

  • Re:Hit them back (Score:2, Interesting)

    by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Monday January 17, 2011 @02:04PM (#34906570)

    Nope the list only contains European and US names. It was in another article. Remember Julian has a file on riveter Murdoch but he won't release it as he is using it as a poison pill. Julian is withholding information for personal gain. How do we know Julian isn't lying and Murdoch paid him off? Where is Juliana bank statements.

    Also how would you like it if tour bank teller released your bank statements to the public? Forget the tax evasion as nothing will be done about that, as you can't prove where/when that money became income. But your personal bank statements.

  • by WhiplashII ( 542766 ) on Monday January 17, 2011 @02:56PM (#34907396) Homepage Journal

    They don't have to pay, they could move to another country.

    Not true - the US taxes all income earned by people born in the US, regardless of where they live / have citizenship. To avoid this, you have to:

    1) Renounce your US citizenship


    2) Convince the IRS that you did not renounce your citizenship to avoid paying taxes

    I am not kidding. If the IRS thinks it is possible that you renounced your citizenship to avoid paying taxes, they will annul your renunciation. And remember, the IRS does not require any proof, and your have no appeal outside of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax court. After which they will probably win anyway, because in tax court you are considered guilty until proven innocent. Please see the relevant legal part of the tax code.

  • Dead on. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 17, 2011 @03:44PM (#34908078)

    I am Swiss, and you're dead on. There is only a very small, elitist circle here that has a lot of money. Mostly bankers and managers of international corporations, and most of them are not even Swiss. They only come to Switzerland because of the good market, low taxes for businesses, good infrastructure and security.

    Yeah, it's true, we have a good infrastructure. You can reach almost every point by public transport. Almost everybody has telephone line / Internet access. Low criminality rates (except in economic crimes, insider trading for example is still very common and rarely prosecuted). However, purchasing power of a average middle-class swiss person is about the same as in the US, if not even slightly lower. We have an increasing overpopulation problem which causes apartment prices to skyrocket, so that an many people have a really hard time finding a home. We have an incompetent government that is overprotective in regard to large businesses/banks. We have media corruption (not a single paper noticed that with the beginning of this year, there is a new law which prohibits development of "hacker tools" while in Germany some time ago there was a huge outrage because of a similar law). We have a stupid bureaucracy.

    There was some resistance against the upper class here recently, however, it mostly fails because the upper class threatens the public that they will leave the country if the people will vote for laws "against them" (like i.e. higher taxes).

    I don't say Switzerland is a bad place - but I am sick and tired that it is always praised as a neutral country, where everyone is wealthy and free like nowhere else, no one is oppressed and everyone is happy. Because it really isn't.

    Mod parent up.

There's no such thing as a free lunch. -- Milton Friendman