Global tax investigation casts net over havens
An investigation into the tax avoidance schemes of hundreds of wealthy Australians is part of a multinational inquiry into offshore data believed to include 2.5 million leaked tax records.
The Australian Tax Office's probe, which has so far put two Australians under criminal investigation, will work in tandem with those announced by US and British governments overnight.
All three inquiries are believed to be based on secret records given to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists during an investigation into a global network of tax havens last month.
The consortium says the documents include the names of thousands of American, Australian and British citizens.
The US Internal Revenue Service said on Thursday the three nations "have each acquired a substantial amount of data revealing extensive use of such entities organised in a number of jurisdictions including Singapore, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and the Cook Islands." "This is part of a wider effort by the IRS and other tax administrations to pursue international tax evasion," IRS acting commissioner Steven T. Miller said.
British tax authorities also confirmed on Thursday they were working with Australian and US administrations to examine "extensive use of complex offshore structures" that conceal the assets of wealthy individuals and companies.
"The 400 gigabytes of data is still being analysed but early results show the use of companies and trusts in a number of territories around the world including Singapore, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, and the Cook Islands," a statement from the British tax office said.
"The data also exposes information that may be shared with other tax administrations as part of the global fight against tax evasion."
ATO deputy commissioner of serious non-compliance Greg Williams said two Australians were under criminal investigation, while 65 others had been identified as "high risk" because each had moved more than $1 million in or out of Australia without declaring it in their tax returns.