ATO has these Aussies in their sights


Wealthy individuals and companies will face tougher scrutiny as the Australian Taxation Office introduces a new program to catch out tax cheats.

The ATO says about 9000 individuals and 18,000 companies paid more than $9 billion in income tax in the 2016-17 financial year, employing about 780,000 people.

"The vast majority of high wealth private groups take their tax obligations seriously and are trying to do the right thing", deputy commissioner Tim Dyce said yesterday in a statement.

But ATO research shows a number of high wealth private groups are deliberately engaging in risky behaviour, including "seeking to engage in artificial and non-commercial arrangements that are intentionally designed to avoid paying tax".

"We know a small number of tax advisers intentionally do the wrong thing by placing their high wealth private groups' clients into risky and even illegal tax avoidance arrangements," Mr Dyce said.

"These tax advisers and others who promote aggressive tax arrangements risk being subject to significant financial penalties and face the prospect of prosecution."

To ensure compliance at the top end, from July 1 the ATO will expand the work of the Tax Avoidance Taskforce and introduce a new program focusing on high wealth private groups.

"Those seeking to obtain an unfair advantage by avoiding their tax obligations will attract our full attention and will be the subject of strong enforcement action," Mr Dyce said.

"Access to sophisticated data and analytical tools has increased our ability to match data from Australian and offshore institutions and regulators and means that those engaging in tax avoidance activities will be caught out. It is not a matter of if but when."

He said the mums and dads of Australia wanted confidence that wealthy Australians were paying the right amount of tax and that the ATO was doing its job and calling out those who deliberately avoided paying tax.

The ATO says the high wealth tax gap population includes individuals and companies linked to a high wealth private group with group net wealth greater than $50 million and ownership greater than 40 per cent.

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