Thursday, December 18, 2014

Report on Australia's Amnesty for Offshore Accounts (12/18/14)

Nassim Khadem, ATO tax amnesty nets billions, but hunt for rich with secret Swiss accounts continues (Sydney Morning Herald 12/9/14), here:
Thousands of rich Australians have come forward to declare billions of dollars in untaxed assets and income stashed in bank accounts in Switzerland and in other countries. 
The rush comes as what the Australian Taxation office says is the last tax amnesty it will ever offer comes to an end. 
In a warning to anyone feeling reluctant to come forward, ATO said it has an "informer" who has already handed them a list of 122 Australians with Swiss bank accounts.
To date, 1750 Australians have declared a total of $240 million in income and $1.7 billion in assets under the amnesty and another 800 expected to make voluntary disclosures. 
* * * * 
The Tax Office is also using powers offered under Australia's new treaty with Switzerland to request information from Swiss authorities to help them gather a case against five rich people that the ATO suspect have hidden income and assets offshore but who have not been cooperating. 
* * * * 
Switzerland proved to be the most popular destination for undeclared wealth (585 individual disclosures were made about money and assets hidden there), followed by the UK (299 disclosures), Israel (231 disclosures), Singapore (123 disclosures), Hong Kong (115 disclosures) and Liechtenstein (43 disclosures). 
* * * * 
Mr Cranston confirmed that most of the people who had come forward were the children and grandchildren of rich migrants families. 
They had been left to clean up tax messes inherited from their migrant parents and grandparents, who upon migrating to Australia in the 1950s and 1960s, had stashed money away in secret Swiss bank accounts - a practice that was common at the time.
"It's a clean-up exercise of the past," Mr Cranston said. 
The majority of those involved are wealthy Australians, classified by the Tax Office as having with net assets greater than $5 million, and high-wealth individuals with net assets worth more than $30 million. 
Mr Cranston said the bulk of disclosures related to "managed type investments, securities, interest bearing accounts and dividends". 
The amnesty, which was first revealed in January and officially announced by the Tax Office in March, gives reduced penalties and caps penalties back on to four years, not the entire time money and assets have been hidden. Those making voluntary disclosures have also been given an assurance that they will not be investigated or referred for criminal investigation on the basis of that information. 
Initially taxpayers that were caught up in official ATO audits were prohibited from participating in the amnesty, dubbed by the agency as "Project Do It". 
But "we've allowed a couple in for various reasons because the audit was on small minor matter and had nothing to do with arrangements," Mr Cranston said.
ATO assistant commissioner, international, David Allen, said a recently updated treaty with the Swiss had greatly increased their powers to hunt down individuals dodging tax. 
On top of this, the OECD and G20 are working on a common reporting standard that will see information held by banks and other financial institutions shared between tax authorities. 
Mr Allen said the Tax Office would be undertaking its first information exchange with Swiss authorities under the new treaty on December 22nd, just days after the amnesty closes (on December 19). 
"That first request is about a series of (five) high-wealth individuals that have we have concerns about and that we suspect may have a Swiss bank account," he said. 
"We also have an informer via a treaty country that has given us a list of Australians with Swiss bank accounts. There's 122 names on the list. This is significant as its first time we've made a request for information and we are confident that they [Swiss authorities] will supply the information that we need. This is not a fishing expedition."
He said the agency had also separately been given information 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please make sure that your comment is relevant to the blog entry. For those regular commenters on the blog who otherwise do not want to identify by name, readers would find it helpful if you would choose a unique anonymous indentifier other than just Anonymous. This will help readers identify other comments from a trusted source, so to speak.