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01 May 14 Commissioner’s address to ATAX - Reinventing the ATO

On 14 April 2014 the Commissioner of Taxation, Chris Jordan, gave an address to the ATAX 11th International Tax Administration Conference in Sydney. The address was entitled “Reinventing the ATO – building trust in Australia’s tax administration”.

On international tax issues, the Commissioner had this to say:

“We are striving to make a difference taking an active leadership role to combat global tax problems and implement the 2013 OECD Action Plan on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS).

I have committed to do what we can to avoid double non-taxation and ensure that Australia gets its fair share of tax.

My message is if you are going to use ‘on the edge’ minimisation strategies in Australia, we are going to make our presence felt — ‘we will thoroughly check everything you do’.

We are already working collaboratively and collectively with other tax administrations to share intelligence, undertake risk assessments and take compliance action. For BEPS and multi-nationals involved in the digital economy we are putting together top down, global pictures of these companies so we can understand what that means for each of our jurisdictions.

We are also looking at international restructures that involve service hubs in low tax jurisdictions, where the profits shifted do not match the economic activity and reality.

On the issue of offshore evasion, I recently I announced a limited offer disclosure facility until December 2014. Project DO IT: Disclose offshore income today recognises that there is no such thing as a safe haven for tax schemes. The early results are promising with 16 disclosures and 33 expressions of interest from others who intend to make a disclosure. We are confident that this program will bring many taxpayers back into the system with direct and future compliance dividends.

Data revolution is one reason why secrecy havens are failing. Country by country reporting, the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, and a new G20-endorsed global standard for automatic information exchange means that it is harder to hide.

Already, as a result of our network of over 100 treaties and agreements, we were able to raise assessments worth around $480 million in 2013. Our increasing access to offshore account data supplied by domestic and foreign banks is shining the light on offshore holdings — in the last six months this has initiated over 3,000 enquiries.

Dealing with offshore evasion has seen unprecedented cooperation between some government agencies. For example, the Australian Federal Police and Australian Crimes Commission have charged 73 people with serious offences, and the Project Wickenby taskforce has raised liabilities of $1.9 billion and restrained or frozen around $200 million in assets.”

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