In a statement, a spokeswoman for HSBC said, "While we haven't seen the summons, HSBC does not condone tax evasion and fully supports the US efforts to promote appropriate payment of taxes by US taxpayers. While complying with the law in all the jurisdictions in which it operates, including India, HSBC cooperates with requests from US authorities."
The HSBC spokeswoman also pointed out the bank has "been engaged in a constructive dialogue with US authorities," and hopes any IRS summons issues can be resolved quickly.
The government has an interest in driving as many offshore account holders as possible into an IRS amnesty program in which they can pay penalties and bring their accounts into compliance with US tax laws.
This is the second such amnesty the IRS has offered. The first, in 2009, brought in 15,000 Americans who confessed to holding secret offshore accounts.
In its press release Thursday, the Department of Justice said a grand jury in Newark, N.J., indicted Vaibhav Dahake of Somerset, N.J., in January, charging him with conspiracy to defraud the United States by using undeclared accounts in the British Virgin Islands and at HSBC India.
Employees of HSBC Holdings assured Dahake that accounts maintained in India would not be reported to the IRS, the government said.
The government also said HSBC India opened a “representative office” in 2002 at an HSBC USA office in New York City to enable “Non-Resident Indians” (NRIs) living in the United States to open accounts in India.
In 2007, the press release said, HSBC India allegedly opened a second representative office at an HSBC USA office in Fremont, Calif., purportedly “to make banking transactions more convenient for the NRI community based in California.”
“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that all US taxpayers meet their obligations to declare and pay taxes on foreign bank accounts,” said John A. DiCicco, principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Tax Division, in a prepared statement.
“The ability to hide accounts in foreign countries is rapidly dwindling. We will continue working hand-in-hand with the IRS to enforce the tax laws against those who are using offshore accounts — wherever they are located — to evade taxes.
In the same statement, IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman said, “The IRS continues to focus its attention on international tax evasion. This summons request is focused on obtaining more information to help us determine if additional actions are needed.
"As I’ve said all along, our international efforts are not about just one country or one bank, it’s about our wider effort to ensure compliance with the nation’s tax laws.”