Wyden Requests Details on Tax Evasion Through Shell Companies

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Wednesday asked federal tax officials to provide more information on how federal officials monitored firms linked to the disclosure of shell company tax avoidance strategies in the “Panama Papers.”

In April, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists used leaked documents to reveal how the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca set up anonymous shell companies to help individuals avoid tax payments or scrutiny by government officials in the United States and other countries. In some cases, the offshore companies were set up to conceal the finances of government officials from other countries or conceal criminal activity.

Wyden, ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, on Wednesday asked for information from U.S. regulators in order to identify ways to better police illegal activity related to shell companies.

“I am interested in better understanding the ability of the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service to identify and monitor these types of illegal activities and the shell entities used to carry them out,” Wyden, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, wrote in an Oct. 19 letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

Wyden asked the two regulators more than a dozen questions about the tax filing and disclosure requirements of companies listed in the Panama Papers leak.

“I remain extremely concerned about the use of shell companies to evade taxes, commit financial crimes, and defraud the government at the expense of taxpayers,” Wyden said in a statement released with the letter. “This leak demonstrated just how easy it is to abuse shell companies, so I believe it is essential to determine whether the laws on the books do enough to fight that abuse.”