ATO to target wealthy individuals

The Australian Tax Office will be doubling its efforts to catch out tax violations amongst 1200 wealthy individuals.

Well-heeled individuals controlling more than $30m will be the subject of additional ATO audits.

Taxation commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo pointed out the growing resources for the ATO’s wealthy individuals taskforce. Staff levels now number 181 and are expected to triple by 2010.The taskforce has upgraded its data and audit capabilities after receiving an extra $82 million in funding from the 2006 budget.

Wealthy individuals will no longer be able to plead ignorance of complex tax arrangements that constitute tax violations.

“Most wealthy Australians are not experts in tax law. But like all taxpayers, they are responsible for what they report in their tax returns, irrespective of who prepares the return and the advice they get,” D’Ascenzo was quoted in the Australian Financial Review.

The ATO sent out a 60 page guide to 1200 wealthy individuals earlier this week, outlining issues that will draw the attention and disapproval of the authority. Among these are lifestyles not consistent with reported after-tax income, large variations in year to year tax payments and private assets being treated as business assets.

Since the wealthy individuals taskforce was established by the ATO in 1996 an extra $1.766 billion of tax revenue has been collected.

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