What would Mitt Romney’s offshore account filings show?

January 27, 2012

Romney campaign says it has filed paperwork related to offshore holdings

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has said it filed disclosures required by the Treasury Department involving the Romney family’s offshore holdings, but the campaign has not responded to requests from The Washington Post since Wednesday for copies of those documents.

The filings, known as FBARs, could provide more detail about items contained in the tax returns Romney released this week, such as the maximum amount held in a foreign account. They would also show whether Romney complied with Treasury disclosure requirements on a timely basis.

Romney’s offshore holdings have become an issue in the Republican primary campaign.

“We’re not going to beat Barack Obama with some guy who has Swiss bank accounts,” rival Newt Gingrich said in a Florida appearance Thursday.

The Romney tax returns showed that he and his family held investments abroad in such places as Luxembourg, Ireland and the Cayman Islands. At least one of those investments, an account at the Swiss Bank UBS held in a blind trust for Romney’s wife, would have triggered the FBAR requirement.

The Swiss bank account and other offshore holdings were left out of a separate, public financial disclosure required of presidential candidates that Romney filed last year with the Office of Government Ethics. The Romney campaign has said it will amend the ethics disclosure.

In a conference call Tuesday with reporters arranged by the Romney campaign, R. Bradford Malt, a Boston lawyer who is trustee of the Romney family trusts, said he set up the Swiss account in 2003 and closed it in 2010. He said it held approximately $3 million and generated income.

“The tax is fully paid just as if this were a U.S. bank account,” he said.

Malt was asked during the briefing whether Romney “filed any and all required FBARs in a timely fashion.”

In response, Malt said: “The people required to file FBARs are Mrs. Romney and myself, and we have filed all FBARs.”

The Treasury Department requires U.S. taxpayers to file the FBAR forms, whose full title is “Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts,” to help the Internal Revenue Service make sure that people are not dodging taxes by stashing money overseas.

UBS agreed in 2009 to pay the U.S. government $780 million to settle civil and criminal charges that it helped thousands of Americans evade U.S. taxes. The U.S. government said the bank allowed Americans to hold money in Swiss accounts that were concealed from the IRS. Both the bank and the clients were supposed to make disclosures to the U.S. government about the accounts.

Against the backdrop of the UBS case, the IRS has offered leniency to U.S. taxpayers for belatedly disclosing offshore accounts.

Stephen Hudak, a spokesman for the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, said FBARs are exempt from public disclosure under open-records laws. The Treasury Department will neither release any such forms nor confirm or deny that they have been filed, he said.

by David S. Hilzenrath

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has said it filed disclosures required by the Treasury Department involving the Romney family’s offshore holdings, but the campaign has not responded to requests from The Washington Post over the past two days for copies of those documents.

The filings, known as FBARs, could provide more detail about items contained in the tax returns Romney released this week, such as the maximum amount held in a foreign account. They would also show whether Romney complied with Treasury disclosure requirements on a timely basis.

Romney’s offshore holdings have become an issue in the Republican primary campaign.

“We’re not going to beat Barack Obama with some guy who has Swiss bank accounts,” rival Newt Gingrich said in a Florida appearance Thursday.

The Romney tax returns showed that he and his family held investments abroad in such places as Luxembourg, Ireland and the Cayman Islands. At least one of those investments, an account at the Swiss Bank UBS held in a blind trust for Romney’s wife, would have triggered the FBAR requirement.

The Swiss bank account and other offshore holdings were left out of a separate, public financial disclosure required of presidential candidates that Romney filed last year with the Office of Government Ethics. The Romney campaign has said it will amend the ethics disclosure.

In a Jan. 24 conference call with reporters arranged by the Romney campaign, R. Bradford Malt, a Boston lawyer who is trustee of the Romney family trusts, said he set up the Swiss account in 2003 and closed it in 2010. He said it held approximately $3 million and generated income.

“The tax is fully paid just as if this were a U.S. bank account,” he said.

Malt was asked during the briefing whether Romney “filed any and all required FBARs in a timely fashion.”

In response, Malt said: “The people required to file FBARs are Mrs. Romney and myself, and we have filed all FBARs.”

The Treasury Department requires U.S. taxpayers to file the FBAR forms, whose full title is “Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts,” to help the Internal Revenue Service make sure that people are not dodging taxes by stashing money overseas.

UBS in 2009 agreed to pay the U.S. government $780 million to settle civil and criminal charges that it helped thousands of Americans evade U.S. taxes. The U.S. government said the bank allowed Americans to hold money in Swiss accounts that were concealed from the IRS. Both the bank and the clients were supposed to make disclosures to the U.S. government about the accounts.

Against the backdrop of the UBS case, the IRS has offered leniency to U.S. taxpayers for belatedly disclosing offshore accounts.

Stephen Hudak, a spokesman for the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, said FBARs are exempt from public disclosure under open records laws. The Treasury Department will neither release any such forms nor confirm or deny that they have been filed, he said.

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