The ATO says hundreds of people have already come forward under its foreign tax haven amnesty. Photo: Louie Douvis
The Australian Taxation Office is ramping up its efforts to catch Australians who park undisclosed funds in other countries, saying it expects to contact "thousands of people" over the coming months.
Hundreds have already come forward as part of a new amnesty.
The ATO’s Project Do It, launched in March, had already resulted in 166 disclosures raising an extra $13 million in tax liabilities, ATO deputy commissioner Michael Cranston said on Monday.
There had also been 250 "expressions of interest" – whereby taxpayers identify themselves and pledge a disclosure – and 600 general inquiries, Mr Cranston said.
Project Do It, which finishes on December 19, is being billed as the last chance for tax dodgers using overseas accounts to come forward.
"Most people getting in touch are reporting accounts in Switzerland, Israel, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, South Africa and Hong Kong, so we’ll obviously be looking closely at the flow of funds to those countries," Mr Cranston said.
"This really is a last opportunity for people to get their affairs in order."
According to the Project Do It website, "sophisticated data matching and bulk data analysis", as well as greatly improved international co-operation, are being used to track down tax evaders in overseas havens.
Mr Cranston said in March that the ATO had "very effective" agreements with countries previously thought of as tax havens, such as Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Guernsey and Jersey. Companies – including such global brands as Google and Apple – are also encouraged to come forward.
The ATO would be in touch with financial institutions, advisers and individual taxpayers over the coming months, said Mr Cranston.
"We’ll be asking some people to explain offshore transactions and suggesting that they may want to disclose under Project Do It. At the same time, people involved in serious tax evasion may be subject to audit."
Under Project Do It, taxpayers disclosing their offshore assets will generally be assessed for the last four years, be liable for a maximum shortfall penalty of 10 per cent and full interest shortfall charges, and will not be investigated by the ATO or referred for criminal investigation on the basis of their disclosures.
According to the ATO, $480 million of adjusted tax, penalties and interest was recovered in 2012–13 thanks to exchanges of banking information with other countries.