National Whistleblower Day

The Ninth Annual Whistleblower Summit and Film Festival is being held virtually from July 28 – August 1.  The event features panels on an assortment of topics relevant to whistleblowers, whistleblower advocates, and over forty films.  The full calendar of panels can be found here.  Panels and films are available for viewing from their designated start time until July 31st at 11:59 pm EDT.

One of the featured panels is International Whistleblower Rights Program: South Korea’s Tax Whistleblower Reward Law.  For this panel, Youjin Yoon, a law clerk at the qui tam law firm Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto, interviews Joohyun Baek, Deputy Director and Delegate to IBFD Netherlands at the National Tax Service (NTS) of South Korea, about Korea’s Tax Whistleblower Law.

Baek began by explaining that the NTS Whistleblower Reward Program consists of two separate programs: the Tax Evasion Informant Reward Program and the Foreign Financial Account Report Program.  Both programs offer monetary whistleblower awards to individuals who disclose significant original information that leads to a successful enforcement action.  Baek offered clarification about the details of these programs, including the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion and the definition of “significant original information.”  Baek stated that “under Korean tax law, ‘significant’ information is defined as the information that substantiates the whistleblower claim.  This includes transactional information regarding the vendor, list of supply goods or services, quantity of supply goods, etc.”

Baek further detailed the two whistleblower reward programs.  He explained that whistleblowers can be eligible for rewards under both programs simultaneously and that rewards are for 5-20% of the collected proceeds.  He also made note that under the NTS Whistleblower Reward Programs individuals of any nationality are eligible for awards.

Baek continued by explaining the protections offered to Korean tax whistleblowers.  Through the programs, Baek explained, whistleblowers are legally ensured complete confidentiality and anonymity.  Baek concluded by recounting NTS Whistleblower Reward Program’s successes and the critical role individual whistleblowers play in combating fraud and corruption.

Like South Korea, the United States has important rewards programs for tax whistleblowers.  Established in 2006, the IRS Whistleblower Program operates similarly to the NTS Whistleblower Program.  IRS whistleblowers are offered confidentiality and are eligible for monetary awards if they provide original information that leads to a successful enforcement action.  The IRS whistleblower awards are even greater than those offered by the NTS.  IRS whistleblowers are entitled to an award between 15-30% of any amount recovered by the IRS.  In 2012, Bradley Birkenfeld received an IRS whistleblower reward of $104 million, the largest ever individual qui tam whistleblower award in history.  Earlier this month, the National Whistleblower Center urged Congress to strength the IRS Whistleblower Program to combat COVID-19 related tax fraud.