Some 7,500 international tax dodgers have applied for an amnesty program that promises no jail time and reduced penalties for tax cheats who come forward, the IRS announced Wednesday.
The tax dodgers were hiding money in more than 70 countries and on every continent except Antarctica. Accounts ranged from just over $10,000 to more than $100 million.
Response to the program has been unprecedented, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said. “The whole idea of this program was to get people in and get them on the right side of the law,” Shulman said.
The IRS long has had a policy that certain tax evaders who come forward before they are contacted by the agency usually can avoid jail time as long as they agree to pay back taxes, interest and hefty penalties.
Fewer than 100 people apply for the program in a typical year, in part because the penalties can far exceed the value of the hidden account, depending on how long the account holder has evaded U.S. taxes.
In March, the IRS began a six-month amnesty program that sweetened the offer with reduced penalties for people with undeclared assets. The program was extended once, until Thursday. Shulman said it will not be extended again.
The program is part of a larger effort by the Obama administration to crack down on Americans who evade U.S. taxes by hiding assets in overseas accounts. In August, the U.S. and Switzerland resolved a court case in which Swiss banking giant UBS AG agreed to turn over details on 4,450 accounts suspected of holding undeclared assets from American customers.
Shulman said the IRS is still processing applications for the amnesty program. It is too early to know how much money will be recovered, he said.
Shulman said accounts included money from inheritances, profits skimmed from U.S. companies, and profits earned overseas. Some of the tax cheats had single accounts while others had multiple accounts in different countries. Some set up corporations to make it harder to identify them, he said. “These taxpayers are now back in the U.S. tax system,” Shulman said.
See TIME’s Pictures of the Week.