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15 Aug 14 Preamble - 15 August 2014

Dispute resolution

This week the Tax Institute appeared before the House of Representatives Tax and Revenue Committee to give evidence relating to our submission to the Committee’s inquiry into the ATO’s handling of dispute resolution. Tax Institute President, Michael Flynn CTA and Co-Chair of our Dispute Resolution Committee, Dr Niv Tadmore CTA, joined Tax Counsel, Thilini Wickramasuriya ATI at the Committee hearing.

The Committee comprises ten Members of the House of Representatives, with six Government MPs and four non-Government MPs. It is Chaired by former tennis great, John Alexander OAM, MP.

The Hansard containing our evidence will be available on the Parliament House website in the coming days. We look forward to again engaging with the Tax and Revenue Committee on future hearings into other important issues affecting members.

Project DO IT

Members would be aware of the ATO’s offshore income voluntary disclosure initiative, Project DO IT.

We at the Institute supported the initiative at the time of the launch as it reflected a pragmatic approach to encouraging taxpayers to return revenue that is currently outside of the tax system. For taxpayers it is a chance to bring funds onshore in the shadow of increasing international cooperation on exchange of information.

There have been a number of other offshore income voluntary disclosure initiatives in the past but this initiative contains some unique features: the ATO won’t go back beyond the standard amendment period; and it may also agree not to tax taxpayers on the winding-up of their offshore structures. However, there are features that taxpayers should be wary of, such as not being entitled to utilise certain losses and shortfall interest charges.

Five months on, the uptake amongst taxpayers has been quite slow. The ATO advises that more than 100 disclosures have been received, with total additional income disclosed of around $12 million. The ATO has also received almost 200 expressions of interest from taxpayers that intend to lodge a disclosure but are seeking more time to finalise.There are clearly many issues to consider, such as: 

How does the Tax Office regard taxpayers with legacy issues?

How long does it take to get a resolution? 

Will the ATO only seek to collect tax for the past 4 years or will it go to the principal sum? 

What is the go forward position of the taxpayer? 

I encourage Sydney-based members to register for the Tax Institute’s upcoming event:  “Project Do IT: what does the Tax ‘Amnesty’ really mean to you?” on 21 August in Sydney.  Hear from ATO Deputy Commissioner, Michael Cranston, as well as practitioners including Ken Schurgott CTA-life, in this three hour session. There will also be a Q&A Panel with all of the speakers.  You can register or read more about the event here. For our members not in Sydney, keep an eye on our website for a webinar on the subject later in the year. 

Kind regards

Robert Jeremenko CTA