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3 May, 2018

More than 100 “high-risk” Australians being probed for tax evasion

Canberra, 2 May 2018, (Minister of Revenue and Financial Services media release) – The Turnbull Government is committed to uncovering anyone who seeks to mask the true nature of their tax affairs.

More than 100 Australians with links to Swiss banking relationship managers alleged to have actively promoted and facilitated tax evasion schemes have been identified as ‘high risk’ and requiring further investigation by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

The Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, confirmed 578 Australians were identified by the ATO working with other Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) agencies in March 2017 as holding unnamed numbered accounts with a Swiss bank, following a joint international investigation.

“While the ATO has found the majority of Australians identified in the data to have complied with their tax obligations, a range of immediate compliance actions are being taken against 106 taxpayers, and one is under assessment by the Government’s cross-agency Serious Financial Crime Taskforce,” Minister O’Dwyer said.

“The ATO is investigating whether those taxpayers are using a sophisticated system of numbered accounts to conceal and transfer wealth anonymously to evade their tax obligations in Australia.”

In working with AUSTRAC, the ATO has identified these 106 taxpayers have had 5,000 cross-border transactions worth over $900 million in the past 10 years. These transactions range from as little as $25 and up to $24 million.

“This is another reminder to those who devise, promote or participate in tax evasion schemes that their time is up.”

Just last month we saw Michael Issakidis sentenced to more than 10 years’ jail for his role in the largest prosecuted tax fraud case in Australia’s history. His co-conspirator Anthony Dickson is also in jail for 14 years for his part in the same crime.

“Taxpayers can’t expect to be able to hide their tax affairs offshore.”

Information releases are becoming more regular with the ATO and other government agencies receiving large data sets reasonably regularly. The ATO constantly receives intelligence from a range of sources which they cross-match against existing intelligence holdings through their ‘smarter data’ technology.

Australia also has a well-established network of treaty partners who the ATO works collaboratively with to share intelligence on advisers and taxpayers on offshore tax evasion.

This network is crucial in allowing the ATO to collect information about individual taxpayers’ offshore activities, as demonstrated by the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers.

The SFCT comprises the Australian Federal Police, ATO, Attorney General’s Department, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Border Force, Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

“I encourage anyone who believes they may have undeclared offshore income to come forward and contact the ATO to make a voluntary disclosure,” Minister O’Dwyer concluded.