The Australian Taxation Office has turned its sights on more than $ 100 billion held in offshore bank accounts in a crackdown on undeclared foreign income.
Taxpayers who receive income from investments, family members or working overseas are urged to report this tax time or face hefty penalties, with new international data sharing agreements meaning the ATO has greater power to track money across borders to identify cheats.
"This year, the ATO has received records relating to more than 1.6 million offshore accounts holding over $ 100 billion and is now using data-matching and sophisticated analytics to identify foreign income that has not been reported," assistant commissioner Karen Foat said in a statement on Thursday.
Under the new Common Reporting Standard, the ATO has access to data on financial accounts of foreign tax residents in more than 65 countries.
The data, which shows many Australians have financial dealings in countries like China, the UK, Switzerland, Singapore and the US, includes information on account holders, balances, interest and dividend payments, proceeds from the sale of assets and other income.
"Australians that deliberately move cash overseas in an attempt to hide it should be concerned," Ms Foat said. “Hiding your assets and income offshore is pointless. ‘Tax havens’ are becoming a less effective model as international agreements improve transparency. You can no longer hide money behind borders. "
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While it believes only a small number of people are deliberately avoiding the tax, the ATO said it was more concerned about a large number than their tax obligations.
"If you are an Australian resident for tax purposes, you are taxing your worldwide income, so you must declare your income no matter how small the amount may be," Ms Foat said. "This may include income from offshore investments, employment, pensions, business and consulting or capital gains on overseas assets."
Ms Foat added, “Whether it is an income from your old family home, an unacceptable bank account or interest from working offshore, it must be reported. It must be reported to the ATO, but you may be able to claim a foreign income tax offset to account for any foreign tax paid. "
$ 10 BILLION PAID IN REFUNDS
The ATO reveals a whopping one million more refunds
I can make $ 10 billion has been refunded to Australian taxpayers by more than four million individual refunds, an increase of $ 2 billion compared with this time last year when only three million refunds had gone out.
But the ATO has urged taxpayers to be patient and to avoid ringing up just to check where they are, saying "it's no way to speed up this process, even if you call us".
"Of course, the ATO works quickly to get refunds in people's hands," Ms Foat said. “However, there are some things that taxpayers should take care with to ensure their return is not unnecessarily delayed. Firstly, it’s important to check your account details, and if you’ve changed accounts recently, take a moment to update your details. ”
Ms Foat said, "redirecting them to your new account will take more time". "This tax time, we've seen some people who have really got their refunds having missed this important step," she said.
She added that forgetting to declare income was "another big obstacle getting between some people and their return". "Common things people forget to include are rental income, interest and government allowances or payments – particularly if they are lodged before our pre-fill was available," she said.
"If your data shows you have probably left out income, that can slow down the processing of your return while we make additional checks."
Higher-than-average work-related deductions can also put you under the microscope. "Our data analytics is an example of people making claims out of the norm for their occupation and income level," Ms Foat said.
"While we want people to claim what they are entitled to, where claims seem unusual we may do some additional checks, which could have been longer until you get your refund. I know how to make sure you get your receipts so that you will have them on hand quickly if we need to see them. "