Australians with investments in offshore locations still have an opportunity to avoid significant shortfall penalties by making a voluntary disclosure. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) amnesty program is known as “Project DO IT: Disclose offshore income today”.
The incentives offered by the project are available to eligible taxpayers who make a voluntary disclosure prior to 19 December 2014.
All taxpayers are eligible for relief under Project DO IT, other than:
- Taxpayers that the ATO has already started to audit in relation to the omitted offshore income, capital gains or over-claimed income tax deductions that they wish to disclose;
- Taxpayers who have been involved in the promotion or marketing of tax evasion schemes (although there are some narrow exemptions);
- Taxpayers that are presently under criminal investigation concerning tax-related criminal offences or the foreign assets or income were derived from serious criminal offences unrelated to tax; or
- the taxpayer has not complied with specific obligations from a previous offshore voluntary disclosure initiative that they were involved in.
There are a number of significant advantages for taxpayers who make a voluntary disclosure, regardless of the circumstances, including:
- Significantly reduced administrative shortfall penalties of 10 per cent (plus shortfall interest charge) – noting that such penalties in situations of fraud or evasion are a minimum of 75 per cent of the shortfall amount, which can be (and usually is) increased to 90 per cent.
- A complete remission of administrative shortfall penalties if the shortfall is less than $AUD20,000.00 per Financial Year.
- Protection from criminal investigations into fraud or evasion.
- Reduced chance of a Departure Prohibition Order being imposed (remember Paul Hogan!)
Deputy Commissioner of Taxation Mr Michael Cranston: “We’re getting into a world where there may be a lot more automatic exchange of information. What we’re saying to taxpayers who have stayed hidden is, one day you will get caught. And it will be a lot worse for you when you do”. The level of information sharing between governments in relation to offshore investments has been steadily increasing in recent times, particularly with respect to countries in Asia such as Singapore and Vanuatu, where many Australians have accounts with Australian banks.
The ATO estimates that the amnesty offered by Project DO IT would yield the government up to half a billion dollars in lost revenue. Other advantages for the tax office include the potential that further future taxes can be collected due to the shifting of assets back into Australia, where income can be more easily monitored and assessed
Time is running out to take advantage of Project DO IT – act now before it is too late.
Irish Bentley Lawyers have a wide range of experience in taxation matters, including advising taxpayers on the best way to approach voluntarily disclosing shortfall amounts, as well as assisting with audits and reviews. If you have a query in relation to a taxation matter, then contact the friendly team at Irish Bentley Lawyers on (07) 3229 4060. We are more than happy to assist in whatever way we can, offering a one hour initial consultation for a fixed price of $300 (inclusive of GST) and a fixed price costs agreement where possible.
Please note that the above does not constitute legal advice and Irish Bentley Lawyers make no representations or warranties as to the accuracy of any of the information contained herein. If you have a taxation issue, then please do not hesitate to contact the team at Irish Bentley Lawyers – there is no substitute for proper legal advice based on your unique circumstances.