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September 09, 2021

Germans resort to avoiding taxes by hiding cash in diapers

With the world banging on Switzerland's door to open up about its bank secrecy, Germans who stashed their cash in the tax haven are turning to creative ways to hide their unreported money.

“You regularly have instances of people wearing a secret money belt or concealing it in their underwear,” a customs spokesperson told Bloomberg.

It must have been a tight fit for a 72-year-old man to wear a women's corset packed with 150,000 euros. While another man hid 140,000 euros in adult diapers, officials have also found cash hidden in a shoe, a car battery and in a gingerbread house.

Last year, customs between the German-Swiss border discovered 20 million euros of undeclared cash (and that doesn't mean they found it all either). With German residents accounting for 5.2 million overnight stays in 2011, the largest nationality of foreign visitors the Switzerland, they have easy access to Swiss accounts.

Anyone bringing over more than $10,000 euros ($13,200 USD) and not declaring the amount is breaking the law. 

Tax evasion is a hot topic in Germany, especially with the upcoming September election and the recently filed tax evasion charges against Bayern Munich President, a famous face in German football. It was a key agenda topic in the G20 summit, which will lead to G20 countries easily exchanging tax information on people and companies by 2015. 

Since an international journalism investigation on tax evasion was released in April, there's been an outcry of tax havens, such as Switzerland, to release data the banks have on citizens evading taxes.

Countries such as Germany or the United States tackled tax evasion aggressively thanks to rewards offered to whistleblowers. Canada only recently introduced a new policy that will pay whistleblowers as much as 15 per cent if they help the CRA in an international tax evasion bust.

While the CRA typically pursues high earners, it has turned its eye towards middle-income earners, especially those part of the underground economy, where people deal in cash and no taxes. Canada's underground economy is estimated to be worth $35 billion in 2009, according to Statistics Canada.

The government says it's convicted 44 offshore tax evaders since March 2006 to 2012. Too bad that's a number that remains disputed.

If you're bringing or sending money more than $10,000, it needs to be declared at the border. Otherwise, your money could be seized and you could be hit with a fine ranging from $250 to $5,000.

Do you know someone who's evaded taxes? What did you do about it?

By Josephine Lim, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...