Aussies with offshore accounts face scrutiny

Australians with hefty sums of money in Swiss bank accounts are facing increasing scrutiny from the Australian Tax Office, according to local reports.

The Australian newspaper said that the ATO has investigated  AU$5bn worth of deposits in bank accounts in Switzerland over the last 12 months, and is currently pursuing individual tax liabilities worth as much as $100m in some cases.

The newspaper also said that over the last 12 months the ATO had handed the details of more than 30,000 ­financial accounts to the US authorities, as part of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

The ATO’s increased scrutiny of Australian-held Swiss bank accounts comes after the two nations changed the terms of their tax treaty in October 2014, to allow a more detailed exchange of information.

The targeting of Swiss bank accounts is part of a wider move on the part of the ATO to clamp down on tax evasion, as the government struggles to claw back tax revenue to fix a budget deficit resulting from Australia’s recent economic downturn.

The Australian quotes ATO commissioner Chris Jordan as saying: “For wealthy individuals the days of hiding money in a bank account somewhere and not being found out are very limited, because we will have this common reporting of information. It’s just a matter of time.

“Switzerland has agreed to automatically exchange foreign resident banking information. So in 2017-18 we will expect the Swiss to automatically, annually, provide data to us on bank accounts held by Australians.”

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