Federal Budget targets tax havens
Australia's commitment to fighting tax crime has been bolstered by a $122 million budget allocation over three years to the ATO and partner agencies to continue to investigate and prosecute tax haven abuse through Project Wickenby.
By the end of May 2009, Wickenby had raised $352.72 million in tax liabilities, collected more than $110 million and restrained over $75 million from the proceeds of criminal activity. The ATO has also identified an additional $76 million in tax collected in subsequent years from people who have been subject to Wickenby action.
Project Wickenby will complement international developments, including the G20 initiatives on tax havens and non-cooperative jurisdictions, particularly in relation to the international exchange of tax information.
Across the Project Wickenby agencies, the $122 million will fund:
- additional audits and/or reviews
- additional criminal investigations by the Australian Federal Police, supported by mutual assistance requests
- increased strategic and financial intelligence from the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC)
- increased civil investigations by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and
- increased activity by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
The ATO will also expand its scrutiny of international transactions by all businesses and individuals, including the use of offshore bank accounts and international debt and credit cards.
Commissioner of Taxation, Michael D'Ascenzo said 'As Australia's economy recovers and companies seek to maximise competitive advantage via tax minimisation strategies, risks may start to emerge or magnify - particularly in the large and medium business market'.
'While we and our partner agencies recognise that some taxpayers will be experiencing financial distress, we're determined to keep them engaged with the tax system while addressing revenue risks that could emerge as Australia's economy recovers and returns to growth.' The ATO will be helping businesses remain viable in the global recession and promote a level playing field for small business.
'The Budget also provided funding for us to work with Australian financial institutions to determine what additional information they hold that could help us identify those relying on lack of transparency to avoid or evade their income tax obligations.
This information is expected to expand our existing intelligence sources, including AUSTRAC data.'
Commissioner of Taxation, Michael D'Ascenzo said the 2009-10 Budget provided some challenges, as well as some exciting opportunities.
Offshore voluntary disclosures
The ATO encourages taxpayers with unreported income and capital gains from offshore activities to come forward and disclose their activity.
Taxpayers with undisclosed income from offshore activities can contact the ATO to make a voluntary disclosure.
Full details about how to make a voluntary disclosure, including information on eligibility, can be found at www.ato.gov.au