Tax cheats pony up $5.5 billion in amnesty program

WASHINGTON - Government investigators say more than 39,000 tax cheats have come clean under a series of programs that offered reduced penalties and no jail time to people who voluntarily disclosed assets they were hiding overseas.

In all, the Internal Revenue Service recouped more than $5.5 billion.

But there's more.

The Government Accountability Office suspects that thousands of other taxpayers have quietly started reporting foreign accounts without paying any penalties or interest. A new report by the government watchdog says the number of people reporting foreign accounts to the IRS nearly doubled from 2007 to 2010, to 516,000 accounts.

The report says the sharp increase suggests that some people are simply starting to report their accounts without taking part in the disclosure programs.

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