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US courier firms' records to be searched for tax correspondence

Monday, 5 January, 2015

The US Internal Revenue Service has obtained judicial authority to force various international courier services to identify people who have had dealings with an investment services company in Panama.

The IRS's demands are called 'John Doe summonses' because they refer to unnamed persons. They require Federal Express, DHL, UPS, the money transfer service Western Union, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Clearing House, and the correspondent bank HSBC USA, to produce records about unidentified US taxpayers who are suspected of using the firm to set up offshore bank accounts, companies and trusts between 2005 and 2013. They are now backed with the authority of the New York District Court.

The IRS says its suspicions of the Panamanian firm come principally from a taxpayer who made a voluntary disclosure of non-compliance to avoid prosecution. He claimed the firm helped him form an anonymous Panama corporation to control assets without appearing to own them.

According to the IRS, the firm uses Federal Express, UPS, and DHL to correspond with its US clients and uses Western Union to make client fund transfers. These companies thus are expected to hold records of US client correspondence, while the Federal Reserve Bank, Clearing House, and HSBC USA may have records of their financial transactions.

Sources