Targeting tax crime: a whole-of-government approach - March 2013
The eighth issue of Targeting tax crime: A whole-of-government approach (PDF, 1.48MB) is now available.
Chris Jordan highlights why tax evasion is easier to track.
This is my first contribution to Targeting tax crime since my appointment as Commissioner and I'm pleased to introduce you to the latest edition of this unique and useful resource. Over my first couple of months in the job, I have been learning more about how the ATO works with cross-agency partners to expose tax evaders attempting to hide what they are up to. It's a significant body of work that is delivering real value for the community and it is a priority for me that we continue strengthening our ties with law enforcement agencies and across jurisdictions so we can build on the good results so far. In this edition, we explore how our strategies and work with cross-agency partners make tax evaders' financial activities visible.
The scope of tax crime is broad, as is the range of people that commit tax fraud, from business people seeking to hide profits through offshore structures, to organised criminal gangs perpetrating refund fraud through stolen identities, to people deliberately making false deduction claims on their tax returns.
I'm impressed by the success of Project Wickenby. The taskforce is recognised internationally as a model of how to operate an effective cross-agency taskforce. The cooperation with law enforcement agencies and international governments and organisations has enhanced and improved our capabilities to be more innovative, agile and responsive to challenges and opportunities.
Not only has Project Wickenby been successful in its own right, it has provided an excellent model for cross-agency work. We are now working in a number of Wickenby-style cross-agency taskforces to address serious and organised crime. One of these is the Attero National Task Force where we are scrutinising the tax affairs of members and associates of the Rebels motorcycle gang, including lodgment compliance action for outstanding tax returns and referrals for prosecution action.
It is not just organised criminals that need to worry about our scrutiny. Tax evaders who think their financial activities are invisible to us had better think again. Sophisticated technology, including data modelling, tracking and matching, has been embedded in our business. These controls mean illegal behaviour is identified earlier and participants not yet caught can be pursued.
This technology, in combination with our ability to share information and work together with local and international partners, is continually expanding our capability to detect and deal with tax crime.
We are responding to the current environment with reforms to our tax laws, including amendments to Australia's transfer pricing laws and Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters. In this edition, you can read about both these changes.
You can also read about innovative reforms combating offshore tax evasion. We know that tax evaders innovate and so do we. Our cross-agency and international relationships help us keep up to date with the fast changing tax crime landscape and to develop and implement best-practice tax laws to decrease opportunities for tax crime and increase the chances of tax evaders being caught.
Strengthening the integrity of our tax and super systems to protect the majority of taxpayers that do the right thing is a responsibility I take seriously. In addition to the work we do to combat tax crime through our compliance program, I am also looking forward to working with law enforcement agencies to continue to promote improvements to the system through our contributions to legislative reform.
In this edition you can also read about how tax evasion can be a starting offence for money laundering, which has resulted in lengthy jail sentences. Greg Williams, ATO Deputy Commissioner, Serious Non-compliance shares his vision for the future of Project Wickenby, including our continued efforts in pursuing offshore secrecy arrangements. Terry Hayes, Senior Tax Writer, Thomson Reuters provides commentary on the impact (so far and long term) of Project Wickenby; and Paul Stacey, Head of Tax Policy at the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia, shares his perspective on the challenges we face in a dynamic and borderless economic environment.