Tax office offers amnesty to tax cheats

The old adage of crime is that if you are going to engage in it, go for white-collar crime — the pickings are richer and the l

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) said it is taking part in a “global crackdown” on tax cheats. The project is aimed at recovering billions in tax revenue held in bank accounts in offshore tax havens.

It is part of what is said to be a "global war" against tax evasion following recent work by the OECD and G20 finance ministers on automatic exchanges of tax information.

In an address to the Tax Institute on March 29, tax commissioner Chris Jordan set out the terms of Australia’s involvement with a tax office disclosure initiative called Project DO IT.

Deputy tax commissioner Michael Cranston said the crackdown could potentially generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the tax office.

Australian companies, private groups and high-wealth individuals with international tax liabilities will be encouraged to come forward and make a clean start before December 19 this year.

Those that do will receive certain benefits for their new-found honesty. Those who come forward will be assessed on their past four years of income only and the penalty they face is just 10% of the relevant tax shortfall.

The further bonus is that the ATO will not investigate the relevant disclosure for the purposes of prosecuting for a criminal offence — criminal activity will go unpunished because the ATO’s "crackdown" will turn a blind eye to it.

Like violence, white-collar crime comes with a qualifier that is meant to soften the offence. The violence that is overwhelmingly committed against women by their male partners is supposed to be somehow ameliorated because it is "domestic" violence.

The old adage of crime is that if you are going to engage in it, go for white-collar crime — the pickings are richer and the laggings are lighter.

Cranston said the crackdown is “sort of saying to them, well this is a last chance opportunity, because one day we will catch you.” Yes, well, that is sure to do it.

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