Project Wickenby is making a real difference to voluntary compliance among people at risk of using illegal tax havens and bank secrecy arrangements.
Since Project Wickenby commenced the Tax Office has collected significant amounts of unpaid tax and noticed a change in the behaviour of people subject to Wickenby actions.
At 30 September 2009 the Tax Office had collected $372 million including $223 million in voluntary payments as a direct result of Wickenby activity - boosted by a small number of high-value lodgements totalling more than $100 million.
To date, Project Wickenby has raised $463 million in tax liabilities and completed 878 audits (another 585 audits are in progress).
Forty-eight people have been charged with indictable offences.
People are getting the message that Project Wickenby means business.
While high-wealth individuals remain a focus, the Tax Office also has promoters, intermediaries and participant taxpayers in it's sights.
There have been a small number of cases where intermediaries including tax agents, accountants and lawyers who are associates of promoters were actively involved in establishing and running schemes. Many are now facing criminal charges including fraud and money laundering.
Tax Office Deputy Commissioner (Serious Non-Compliance) Michael Cranston said the achievements of Project Wickenby demonstrate to the public that tax evasion is a serious criminal matter - a crime against the community.
'When people get involved in this type of behaviour they are participating in tax fraud and criminal charges may apply,' Mr Cranston said. 'We believe the community is behind us when we say that tax evasion is unacceptable.'
Tax Commissioner Michael D'Ascenzo said we're working with partner agencies at local, national and international levels to out-manoeuvre tax criminals to preserve the integrity of Australia's tax and superannuation systems.
The offshore voluntary compliance initiative is also increasing compliance among people involved in offshore arrangements. The initiative allows people who have undeclared income in offshore accounts to make a voluntarily disclosure in return for low or nil penalties.
Since the program was launched in 2007 there have been more than 3,000 disclosures, totalling nearly $306 million in omitted income and raising nearly $65 million in liabilities.
The efforts of the Tax Office and its partner agencies are supported by a global community that is increasingly intolerant of tax haven abuse.
Wickenby cash collections to 30 September 2009
Government agencies have the authority to charge both promoters and participants under the criminal code, as well as apply a range of civil penalties.
What is Project Wickenby?
In February 2006 the Government funded a multi-agency attack on internationally promoted tax schemes.
Project Wickenby is led by the Tax Office working in partnership with seven other Federal department and agencies.
For more information on Project Wickenby please visit www.ato.gov.au
For more information on the Project Wickenby government partners, please visit:
Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre
Australian Securities and Investments Commission
Australian Crime Commission
Australian Federal Police
Australian Government Solictor
Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions.