ATO Commissioner’s warning statement on Panama Papers and tax avoidance

ATO warning on Panama Papers and tax avoidance

Sarah Blakelock, Partner, and Peter King, Consultant, KPMG Law Tax Dispute Resolution & Controversy, analyse the Commissioner of Taxation's strong focus on corporate tax avoidance.

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The Commissioner of Taxation, Chris Jordan, has again brought to front of mind his concerns about those who have tried to avoid their tax obligations and have been exposed by the Panama Papers. Commissioner Jordan announced, on 6 September 2016, the Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) successful ‘week of action’ in dealing such persons. On the same day, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) also released a statement on its co-ordinated national response to the Panama Papers.

These statements come after the establishment of the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) on 1 July 2015 which reinforces domestic agencies working together to detect and deal with financial crime. Relevantly, the agencies forming the SFCT include both the ATO and AUSTRAC, among other government agencies.

As well as his role as the Commissioner, Mr Jordan is also the Chair of the Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Collaboration (JITSIC). In addition to domestic collaboration, Mr Jordan has recently called two urgent JITSIC meetings for countries to share their work to date, including common behaviours and structures used by those identified in the Panama Papers investigation.

In his announcement on 6 September, Commissioner Jordan points to the significant amount of tax liabilities raised, that criminal prosecutions over tax fraud have been made and the sheer volume of information available to, and shared with, the ATO which the ATO is using to identify those involved in tax crime.

Mr Jordan’s message is clear, the ATO is collaborating with both domestic and international agencies to bring to account and refer to the relevant agencies those who engage in tax evasion, avoid corporate responsibility, disguise and hide unexplained wealth, facilitate criminal activity and launder the proceeds of crime – particularly those parties listed in the Panama Papers data set.

Together, the Tax Dispute Resolution & Controversy, Enterprise, Tax Advisory and Forensic teams can identify the risk for those identified or those who have offshore accounts and are concerned about tax positions they have taken.

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