The Project Wickenby cross-agency task force plays a role in the Australian Government's fight against tax evasion, avoidance and crime.
It was established in 2006 to protect the integrity of Australia's financial and regulatory systems by preventing people from promoting or participating in the abusive use of secrecy jurisdictions.
The Project Wickenby task force consists of eight federal agencies. This cross-agency approach continues to be necessary because Australia is increasingly engaging in the global economy and the scale of international tax avoidance and evasion is extensive and growing.
The key objectives of the task force are to:
- reduce international tax evasion in the Australian taxation system
- enhance strategies and capabilities of Australian and international agencies to collectively detect, deter, deal with and disrupt international tax evasion and money laundering
- improve community confidence in Australia’s regulatory systems
- reform administrative practice, policy and legislation.
The task force is working to ensure the majority of the community who do the right thing can be confident that those who try to avoid or evade paying their share of tax are brought to account.
With the combined efforts of eight government agencies, unprecedented international cooperation and sophisticated technology, Project Wickenby is getting results.
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What we do
Project Wickenby is an integral part of the Australian Government's fight against tax evasion, avoidance and crime. The Project Wickenby task force makes use of its combined powers and capabilities to deter promoters of, and participants in, illegal schemes, within Australia and overseas.
Activities carried out in Australia under Project Wickenby include:
- civil audits and risk reviews undertaken by the ATO, and civil investigations conducted by the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC)
- criminal investigations conducted by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC), Australian Federal Police (AFP) and ASIC
- prosecutions and other legal action undertaken by the Attorney-General's Department (AGD), the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP), and the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS)
- administrative actions, including audits, banning people from the financial services industry and using data from the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) to track money moving in and out of Australia
- proceeds of crime action, including action to restrain property and seek its forfeiture.
With their combined legal and administrative efforts and the use of sophisticated technology, the task force has made significant progress identifying a range of illegal offshore schemes and their participants and promoters.
Three key features of the schemes already under investigation are:
- concealing income or gains, or creating false or fraudulent tax deductions
- concealing assets offshore to avoid obligations in Australia
- returning funds to Australian taxpayers in a deceitful manner, including as laundered money.
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The Project Wickenby cross-agency task force also works with governments and organisations around the world to fight tax evasion and avoidance on a global scale. Activities conducted by Project Wickenby in conjunction with overseas authorities and organisations include:
- accessing information and resources from private sector and government departments around the world to assist with civil and criminal investigations and prosecutions
- participating in information sharing, intelligence gathering, investigations and audits with international organisations, such as
- foreign tax administrations, subject to Australia’s bilateral tax treaties and Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs)
- the Joint International Tax Shelter Information Centre (JITSIC)
- the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
TIEAs are an important tool in Australia’s efforts to combat offshore tax evasion. The agreements:
- provide for the effective exchange of information between Australia and its TIEA partners
- promote fairness
- enhance Australia’s ability to administer and enforce its domestic tax laws.
Currently, Australia has signed TIEAs with 36 countries. These agreements enhance Project Wickenby’s ability to seek information on Australian taxpayers who are using these jurisdictions to avoid their taxation obligations.
These new treaties reflect the growing commitment by countries around the world to the accepted international principles of greater tax transparency and the elimination of harmful tax practices.
Who we are
We are the lead agency of the Project Wickenby cross-agency task force. The other seven departments and agencies are:
Project Wickenby is the first time the full range of Australian Government resources has been used to address the significant threat that illegal offshore schemes pose to the integrity of Australia’s financial and regulatory systems.
By combining legal and administrative powers, the Project Wickenby task force is more effective than any single agency acting independently. Task force activities include intelligence sharing, tax audits, criminal investigations, prosecutions and education programs. Each agency has its own statutory powers and functions. If it appears there are possible crimes being committed, which include tax fraud and money laundering, then agencies such as the ACC and the AFP will be asked to assist with the case.
Project Wickenby governance arrangements
The Project Wickenby department and agency chief executive officers (CEOs) meet every six to twelve months to review progress, plan for coming activities and provide high-level governance to the project.
Project Wickenby Cross-Agency Advisory Committee (CAAC)
The CAAC consists of representatives from the departments and agencies, with members meeting monthly to:
- advise on strategic risks, approaches, cases and other matters relevant to Project Wickenby
- share knowledge on methods and develop and propose cross-agency approaches, including international liaison
- assist and oversee the development and maintenance of cross-agency plans and reports for Project Wickenby
- identify and advise the relevant stakeholders of legislative and other impediments to Project Wickenby
- identify and facilitate improvements in cross-agency working arrangements and relationships
- assist respective agencies in providing reports and advice to government on Project Wickenby, including assisting with any reviews of expenditure that are required by government.
What you can do
You may not be aware that the arrangement that you have entered into is illegal and that you may be breaking the law. International promoters and domestic intermediaries often use attractive terms like ‘effective tax management’ or ‘tax minimisation’ when promoting their tax evasion and avoidance schemes.
If you have income or assets in an offshore secrecy arrangement, there are advantages in coming forward and talking to us now. We work with people who voluntarily disclose and want to resolve their tax issues, and significant reductions in penalties may apply to voluntary disclosures. Making a voluntary disclosure will give you certainty into the future about the tax treatment of those arrangements.
If you have any doubts about an arrangement you are involved in, you can phone us on 1800 306 377 to discuss your situation – you can choose to remain anonymous. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to make sure the way you manage your tax matters is legal.
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Report a suspect arrangement
Your information could help make the system fairer for everybody.
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- If you have information about a suspected offshore secrecy arrangement, phone us on 1800 306 377. You can choose to remain anonymous.
- If you have information about suspected tax evasion phone, us on 1800 060 062 (between 8.00am and 6.00pm weekdays), or make an online report.