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Australia Announces Offshore Tax Amnesty

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

20 July 2007

Australian Tax Commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo on Wednesday announced an initiative encouraging taxpayers to come forward and make disclosures of unreported income from offshore activities.

“We are increasing our audit activities in cases where people may try to conceal income and assets offshore in tax havens,” explained D’Ascenzo, adding that: “Taxpayers who contact us before they are the subject of an audit and make a full and true disclosure will have reduced shortfall penalties."

“There is nothing wrong with holding an offshore account or investing overseas as long as you pay any Australian tax due,” he stated.

In a pilot project with some Australian financial institutions, the ATO has asked their overseas subsidiaries or branches in Vanuatu to write to their Australian customers and encourage them to make a voluntary disclosure of any unreported income.

Other approaches include sending a letter to people identified as having an offshore debit or credit card in Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man, or identified through AUSTRAC data as having dealings with those jurisdictions.

“I urge people to review their tax returns and if they have undisclosed income to contact us before we contact them," D’Ascenzo added.

“Helping people do the right thing and taking a firm approach with those who don’t builds confidence in the tax system and helps create a level playing field for everyone,” he concluded.

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