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As part of a crackdown on tax evasion, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has confirmed that it has visited seven adviser firms linked to offshore arrangements and contacted more than 100 parents who paid school fees from overseas bank accounts.
Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston said that the ATO has built up an "intelligence picture" as a result of information disclosed under its anti-evasion initiative Project DO IT. The scheme, which ended in December 2014, provided reduced taxes and penalties for those who voluntarily disclosed offshore income and assets.
According to the ATO, it has now obtained more than 5,000 client names from wealth management firms and compiled a list of 100 advisers and promoters operating globally who have a direct link with people who may have evaded taxes.
Cranston explained that information has also been obtained from around 60 private schools. This information shows that school fees had been paid with funds from an offshore account or related offshore entity. He said that the ATO 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." It will ask those affected to provide documents and attend interviews to answer questions about their arrangements.
"We'll be visiting Australian advisers, including tax agents, legal advisers, financial institutions, and stockbrokers to obtain their full client lists and identify those who have failed to come forward and clean up their tax arrangements under Project DO IT."
"There is nothing wrong with having an offshore account, but you need to pay tax on the interest or earnings," he said.
Cranston added that the ATO had shared its list of advisers with nine key overseas tax administrations and requested that they undertake intelligence reviews of their operations. "Some of these offshore advisers are located in Jersey, Switzerland, Guernsey, [and the] British Virgin Islands...," he said.
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