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ATO launches amnesty for offshore tax evaders

Posted by on in Political Blindness
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By finance reporters Elysse Morgan and Rebecca Hyam

Updated Thu 27 Mar 2014, 3:15pm AEDT

The tax office is calling on all Australians with offshore assets to declare their interests before a global crackdown on tax evasion.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has launched project Do It, which was flagged back in January, and is aimed at providing a last chance for those who have not declared their overseas assets and income before the end of the calendar year.

The ATO says Australians can avoid criminal charges for offshore tax evasion if they come forward now.

Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan says there will soon be no such thing as a tax haven.

"Now, as governments around the world step up their data sharing and harness powerful technology to find tax cheats, the concept of the tax haven is actually dying," Mr Jordan said.

"It's just a matter of time before you'll be caught."

Mr Jordan is encouraging people to take advantage of the amnesty.

"They will not be investigated or referred for criminal investigation by the ATO on the basis of their disclosures ..." he said.


"The message is now is the time for individuals with offshore income to get their affairs in order and avoid steep penalties and the risk of criminal prosecution."

Inspector General of Taxation Ali Noroozi says the targeting of tax havens should be a global issue and a coordinated approach makes sense.

"I don't think countries can deal with it adequately in isolation because otherwise they jeopardise their competitiveness in terms of attracting investment into their country," Mr Noroozi said.

Monash University senior taxation law lecturer Ken Devos expects the amnesty will be highly effective.

He told The World Today those who do not act are likely to be caught and punished, because tax reporting mechanisms and income matching techniques are now extremely sophisticated.

"Particularly the multilateral audits, which have been instigated and all the tax information sharing which goes on now amongst governments and revenue agencies around the world," Mr Devos said.



For a long time we've heard that off shore investment is ok so long as it isn't tax evasion. How does the ATO decide what is tax evasion and what is permissible tax reduction or avoidance? If a company or trust is registered in another country, don't they pay taxes there? Does this mean all countries are going to charge the same tax rates? - unlikely. New Zealand hung on to it's 15% company trust tax to encourage people to invest in New Zealand. Australia's tax rate at the same time was 30%. No surprise that Australian companies set up New Zealand versions to give investors a tax break of 15%. In theory if the investors brought the money back to Australia then they were supposed to pay the extra 15% on that money. But was that ever policed properly? Once again, unlikely. Now the ATO is offering amnesty, so tax evaders can fix up their obligations resulting from off shoring without penalty, or so it seems. It will be interesting to see how effective this strategy is in raising revenue for the Australian government and how this will affect the Banks and their complex web of subsidiary companies. 

Anyway, it sounds impressive - hope it works, for all our sakes in Australia. Makes a refreshing change from all the belt tightening tough budget rhetoric.

Can't help but think that if the ATO made tax collection easier, eg. automatic flat rate at point of sale, it would net greater revenue more reliably at lower collection cost with fewer loopholes for companies and individuals to exploit.

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  • doyla66
    doyla66 Wednesday, 02 April 2014

    If the Govt. is so desperate for money all they need is abolish negative gearing and do away with exemptions for all foreign registered companies who do business in Australia - such exemptions mean they do NOT have to pay any Australian Comany tax. Not to mention tax exemptions for charities of course! Maybe we should all register ourselves as charities! What country I wonder might our major banks be registered in?

  • doyla66
    doyla66 Wednesday, 02 April 2014

    Does Australia pay company tax to the US? Or does our budget break even each year to avoid tax?
    How much do we pay the IMF and for what?
    Don't get me started on the maternity leave for executives!
    Want a shaved and trimmed budget? Give it to BFCSA members to do!

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