IRS to US taxpayers: Come clean over #PanamaPapers or we’ll come looking for you

Police cars outside the Mossack Fonseca offices in Panama City during a raid on April 12. © Ed Grimaldo
The agency Americans love to hate, the Internal Revenue Service, put on its Robin Hood hat to warn US tax cheats connected with illegal activity in the #PanamaPapers to participate in its "get out of jail free card" program – or else.

US officials told NBC News about two global meetings they had attended in which they were advised how to use the leaked papers to identify tax dodgers among its citizens.

More than ten million documents containing information on more than 214,000 offshore companies were leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung by a whistleblower from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

“People hiding assets offshore should recognize the continued changes and progress in the international tax arena,” the IRS said, stressing that an offender’s best option was to “come forward voluntarily and participate in the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program”, a sweetheart deal which allows those who steal from the American people by dodging tax to resolve their penalties and earn protection from criminal liability.

The IRS took part in a meeting of the Joint International Tax Shelter and Collaboration network (JITSIC) to discuss the data leaked from the companies listed in the documents, with which thousands of US citizens and firms are believed to be connected.

The US Treasury Department estimated more than $300 billion in illicit proceeds were generated in Panama in 2015, with criminals using companies such as those listed by Mossack Fonseca to launder money.

“We will be closely monitoring the situation along with our international tax administration partners as we determine what steps to take to ensure compliance with US tax laws and meet our shared global interests,” the IRS told NBC.

US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned Friday that his country needed to “deal with tax shelters and the problem of international tax system permitting havens to develop”.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has come under fire for his late father’s involvement with a company named in the leak. Ian Cameron, who died in 2010, was found to be using the law firm to shield his investment fund, Blairmore Holdings Inc.

The Prime Minister inherited £300,000 ($428,000) in his father's will. Thousands of protesters descended upon London on Saturday to demand his resignation.

Mossack Fonseca has denied any wrongdoing, saying in a statement that they are “responsible members of the global financial and business community.”