In these difficult times, all governments are worried about maximizing tax collections. That is why the Australian Tax Office (ATO) has become very aggressive in surveillance. They are closely tracking instances of siphoning off money to offshore accounts, mostly to countries called Tax Heavens or to places where there is bank secrecy code protecting the clients from disclosure.
The surveillance is also intended to support the ongoing Amnesty Scheme allowing tax evaders to report their income and pay the balance tax to avoid serious penalties and punishments later on. If one siphons or hides money then they shall get Show Cause Notices. If banks help such tax evaders, they shall also be questioned and later on penalized for such acts.
ATO and Project Do-It
The amnesty program is called Project Do-it. Till date, around 150+ tax evaders have taken advantage of this amnesty scheme and paid 13 million dollars of the lost revenue to ATO. About 250 people have also approached ATO with expression of intent to opt for Project Do-It. The individuals and companies with more than $30 million recorded wealth will be allowed to take advantage of the scheme, provided they cooperate.
To step up the gas, ATO has recently started the tax audit of more than 1500 cases, both individuals and companies, who are on top of the suspect list. To increase surveillance effectiveness ATO is collecting data electronically through network called “Austrac”. It helps to get real-time details of all fund movements, domestic or offshore. It is a 24×7 surveillance project wherein the information on money flow is tracked as soon as it happens.
An ATO officer has confirmed they have come to know about a large number of offshore accounts and various methods by which individuals are transferring money to such accounts. To start with there is a special focus on places where there is the highest probability of such money movements as Switzerland, South Africa, Hong Kong, Israel and the Netherlands.
Once the amnesty scheme is over many new tax reforms, with greater penalties for tax avoidance, will be implemented. Australian Government is also in the process of signing the Bank Secrecy Pact with governments like Switzerland that will give them greater access to the secret bank account details in the future. Once such treaties are in place, all the local and foreign banks with accounts of Australian citizens will be informed to make the process of data movement seamless.
It is good to see that banks are cooperating and now writing to their customers whom they think will be affected from such changes. As Australia is presently chairing the G20 meetings in Brisbane in 2014, it is all but natural that there shall be discussions and actions related to tax avoidance and money laundering.
Readers, if you feel worried then act fast. Your timely actions will save you from lots of inconvenience and legal issues. There cannot be a better time than this to put the things on the right side of the law. It will soon be difficult to hide money in some remote corner of the world as slowly things are becoming global and governments are now forced to cooperate.
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