Iconic Australian actor Paul Hogan was accused of misleading Australian and United States tax authorities by claiming he was not a resident in either country, and therefore not liable to pay tax, according to the documents released by the High Court yesterday which detail the Australian Crime Commission’s case against the actor.
Hogan, who has repeatedly and strenuously denied the ACC’s claims of wrongdoing and has not been charged despite a five year legal battle, has attempted to keep a swag of documents relating to the case secret.
But the High Court ruled that while Hogan would suffer “embarrassment” as a result of the documents being released, he had not provided sufficient evidence to support his claim that the documents were so confidential that the court should not release them.
The documents, which include 108 pages of advice from Hogan’s accounting Ernst & Young and details of the ACC’s claims against him, contain allegations that Hogan benefited from three separate tax schemes, involving the use of companies in various tax havens, including the British Virgin Islands.
Get daily business news.
The latest stories, funding information, and expert advice. Free to sign up.
One of the central allegations against Hogan is that he used residency schemes to avoid paying tax in Australia. The ACC says that under one scheme, Hogan told US authorities in 2002 he was coming to Australia permanently, but still did not declare a $US5 million payment for the rights to Crocodile Dundee IV, a film that was never made.
Under a second alleged scheme, the ACC claims Hogan created a false “residency window” between June 2005 and June 2006, such that US tax authorities would consider him to be a resident of Australia and Australian tax authorities would consider him to be a resident of the US.
“‘In 2002-03, the tax advantage lay in telling the US authorities he was coming to Australia permanently; but in 2005, the tax advantage lay in telling the Australian authorities that he came here only temporarily in 2002. Both cannot, however, be the case,” the ACC said.
Hogan, his artistic collaborator John “Strop” Cornell and his former financial adviser Anthony Stewart have consistently denied any wrong-doing in the protracted legal fight with the ACC.
The investigation into Hogan’s tax affairs is part of the Operation Wickenby probe into the use of offshore tax havens by wealthy business people, which was launched by the ACC and the Australian Taxation Office in 2004.
So far the operation has resulted in $767 million in tax liabilities raised, $186 million in tax collected and 57 people charged with tax-related offenses, the most high profile of which was music promoter Glen Wheatley.
The ATO currently has an amnesty for taxpayers who have not declared income from offshore interests to come forward and face greatly reduced penalties. The amnesty expires on June 30, but the ATO says 4,000 people have already come forward.