The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) does not deal lightly with those who engage in illegal tax activity. Australians are taxed on their worldwide income, and therefore offshore dealings must also comply with Australian laws.
The ATO’s message to those seeking to engage in international tax evasion is clear: “you will be caught and we will take a hard line”.
Who does the ATO partner with to fight international tax crime?
The ATO collaborates with a number of partner agencies to track illegal activity and prosecute offenders.
A key domestic partner is the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT), to which over $127 million has been invested. Since the establishment of the SFCT, more than 800 audits and reviews have been completed, raising liabilities of nearly $600 million.
The ATO also works with governments, organisations and informants around the world to fight tax evasion on a global scale. The ATO is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement, comprised of tax enforcement authorities from Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.
How does the ATO investigate international tax crime?
A typical tax crime investigation may involve the following steps:
- Information provided by partner agencies used to identify professional facilitators, including banks, lawyers and financial advisors.
- Leveraging relevant formal access and information gathering powers, the ATO acquires information about their clients.
- If the ATO sees that a practitioner has a number of clients using the same methods to avoid or evade tax they will look at their whole client base.
Case Study: ATO prosecutes international money laundering and tax evasion
On 10 August 2018, cousins Anthony Castagna and Robert Agius were sentenced following a complex tax evasion and money laundering investigation involving millions of dollars in offshore accounts.
An offshore company in Vanuatu, owned by Agius, was used to hold funds before using fake loans to return the money to Australian shores without paying tax.
Castagna, 70, was sentenced to seven years imprisonment with a four year non-parole period and Agius, 68 was sentenced to seven years six months to serve out eight years non-parole.