The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has today announced the extension of information sharing powers for the ATO-led Phoenix and Trust Taskforces, aiming to tackle Australia’s phoenix businesses and misused trust structures.
The ATO said the Trust Taskforce has brought in $350 million in liabilities and $61.8 million collection since it was established eighteen months ago. As of the end of January 2015, the ATO claims the taskforce has been responsible for finalizing 21 audits and 397 reviews, seven of which were found to be “serious exploitation of trusts” escalated for possible law enforcement action. The Trust Taskforce is forecast to have brought in $415 million in liabilities and $165 million by the end of 2016.
The Phoenix Taskforce, made up of a variety of bodies, including the ATO, ASIC, AFP, FWO, and the NSW and Victorian Offices of State Revenue, was formed to tackle the $3.2 billion lost from phoenix activity every year.
“Information sharing makes it quicker and easier to identify and prosecute law-breakers by giving us a more complete profile of the individuals, businesses and tax advisors who are at higher risk of committing financial crime,” Acting Deputy Commissioner Will Day said.
“The sooner we can shut down these illegitimate practices and remove their competitive advantage, the more taxpayers are protected from accidentally getting caught up in such activities.”
Mr Day said employees of phoenix operators are losing up to $655 million in unpaid wages and entitlements, such as super, while business are going without pay for products and services supplied.
“Although it has been up and running for over a year, the decision to prescribe the taskforce means we can now share tax-related intelligence and data with more agencies,” Mr Day said.
“We know that most businesses and families who have trust arrangements in place use them legitimately and are doing the right thing.”