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Sides seek to hold off tax evasion hearings

The U.S. and Swiss governments and banking giant UBS AG indicated Sunday they're seeking a settlement and asked a federal judge to delay high-stakes hearings on the IRS' effort to identify thousands of suspected American tax evaders.

The one-page motion, filed in Miami less than 24 hours before the hearings were to begin today, said postponement is needed "to allow the two governments to continue their discussions seeking a resolution of this matter."

Unless a deal is reached beforehand, the filing asks the hearing be rescheduled for Aug. 3.

U.S. District Judge Alan Gold did not immediately rule, but judges routinely allow parties in civil cases extra time to settle.

In a statement, the U.S. Justice Department said any agreement must require UBS provide "information on a significant number of individuals with UBS accounts."

The case seeks the identities of about 52,000 U.S. clients suspected of hiding $15 billion at UBS. In February, the Zurich-based firm agreed to identify 300 — some of whom now face charges — and admitted it used sham offshore entities, false paperwork and questionable client recruitment. It also paid a $780 million fine.

Bankers fear a ruling against UBS would disrupt cross-border commerce, force people to withdraw huge sums from financial entities with offshore offices and play havoc with international tax treaties. Experts say some other foreign banks are asking American clients to close accounts for fear of being targeted next.

Sides seek to hold off tax evasion hearings 07/12/09 [Last modified: Sunday, July 12, 2009 7:27pm]
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