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Parents investigated for offshore tax evasion

Samantha Menzies
Parents investigated for offshore tax evasion

The ATO has contacted more than 100 parents, which have paid private school fees from overseas bank accounts, as part of its investigation into offshore tax evasion.

It follows the ATO’s offshore disclosure initiative, Project DO IT: disclosure offshore income today. 

“The net is closing for people who think they can avoid their Australian tax obligations by holding money and assets offshore,” ATO deputy commissioner Michael Cranston said in a statement.

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The school fees involved information obtained from about 60 private schools around Australia, showing parents who have had school fees paid from an offshore account or related offshore entity.

“We’ve checked this information against income tax returns and will follow up discrepancies with about 100 parents who may have failed to declare their offshore interests,” Cranston said.

“We’ll be asking them to provide documents and attend interviews to answer questions about their arrangements.”

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In a new shift towards greater transparency, the ATO will work collaboratively with other tax administrations to undertake joint compliance action on advisers and taxpayers.

For the first time, the ATO has been able to compile a list of 100 advisers and promoters, operating both on and offshore, which have a direct link with those which have evaded taxes.

“We have now shared the list of advisers with nine key overseas tax administrations requesting them to undertake an intelligence review of their operations in their countries,” Cranston said.

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Some of these offshore advisers are located in Jersey, Switzerland, Guernsey, British Virgin Islands and are associated with both known institutions, as well as boutique and private banks.

The ATO project provided reduced taxes and penalties for people to voluntarily disclose offshore income and assets and while it ended on 19 December 2014, taxpayers are still encouraged to get in touch.

“The message is loud and clear: we will be reviewing our intelligence, undertaking audits, applying significant penalties and referring the worst cases for criminal investigations,” Cranston said.

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“While the concessions available under Project DO IT have ended, there is the option of reduced penalties if people come forward before the ATO gets in touch,” he said.