Three senators [Carl Levin (D-MI), Norm Coleman (R-MN) & Barack Obama (D-IL)] proposed legislation [The Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act] that would target what they say is $100 billion a year in tax revenue lost each year because of overseas tax havens, in part by forcing hedge funds to track their foreign investors. The measure would impose tougher requirements on U.S. taxpayers using offshore secrecy jurisdictions, give the U.S. Treasury the authority to take action against foreign jurisdictions that impede tax enforcement, stiffen penalties against abusers and close offshore trust loopholes, according to a summary of the bill released by Michigan Democrat Carl M. Levin.
The legislation would require hedge funds to establish programs to combat money laundering and better track offshore investors, under guidance from the Treasury Department. The measure would also prohibit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from issuing patents for accounting strategies intended to "minimize, avoid, defer, or otherwise affect liability for federal, state, local, or foreign tax."
• ESTABLISH PRESUMPTIONS TO COMBAT OFFSHORE SECRECY by allowing U.S. tax and securities law enforcement to presume that non-publicly traded, offshore corporations and trusts are controlled by the U.S. taxpayers who formed them or sent them assets, unless the taxpayer proves otherwise;
• IMPOSE TOUGHER REQUIREMENTS ON U.S. TAXPAYERS USING OFFSHORE SECRECY JURISDICTIONS by listing 34 jurisdictions which have already been named in IRS court filings as probable locations for U.S. tax evasion;
• AUTHORIZE SPECIAL MEASURES TO STOP OFFSHORE TAX ABUSES by giving Treasury authority to take special measures against foreign jurisdictions and financial institutions that impede U.S. tax enforcement;
• STRENGTHEN DETECTION OF OFFSHORE ACTIVITIES by requiring U.S. financial institutions that open accounts for foreign entities controlled by U.S. clients, open accounts in offshore secrecy jurisdictions for U.S. clients, or establish entities in offshore secrecy jurisdictions for U.S. clients, to report such actions to the IRS;
• CLOSE OFFSHORE TRUST LOOPHOLES by taxing offshore trust income used to buy real estate, artwork and jewelry for U.S. persons, and treating as trust beneficiaries those persons who actually receive offshore trust assets;
• STRENGTHEN PENALTIES on tax shelter promoters by increasing the maximum fine to 150% of their ill-gotten gains, and on corporate insiders who hide offshore stock holdings by increasing the maximum fine on them to $1 million per violation of U.S. securities laws;
• STOP TAX SHELTER PATENTS by prohibiting the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from issuing patents for “inventions designed to minimize, avoid, defer, or otherwise affect liability for Federal, State, local, or foreign tax”; and
• REQUIRE HEDGE FUNDS AND COMPANY FORMATION AGENTS TO KNOW THEIR OFFSHORE CLIENTS by requiring them to establish anti-money laundering programs like other U.S. financial institutions, under regulations to be issued by the Treasury Department.