Panama Papers: ATO talks Aussie links

by |
The Australian Tax Office estimated that there are dozens of law firms like Mossack Fonseca around the world, used not only to minimise tax but also to conceal criminal behaviour.

The head of Australia’s tax office, Chris Jordan, spoke to senators yesterday in a specially convened hearing.

“We would believe that would be the case,” Jordan said.

“They’re not a one-off.  They rely on the ever-dwindling secrecy havens.

“You’ve got to remember that the whole point of a lot of this is evasion and hiding things and that’s very difficult to have a total coverage of because of the very nature of it.”

Over 120 of the 800 Australians identified in the leaked data from the Panama Papers scandal  have been linked to an associate offshore service provider located in Hong Kong, The Guardian reported this morning.

Jordan said there are around 80 names that have matched with the Australian Crime Commission’s crime intelligence database.

“So, we don’t only have individuals using these firms to minimise their taxes, but they’re also being used for serious criminal enterprises,” Labor senator Sam Dastyari told The Guardian.

“There are 80 criminals and associates, already known to the Australian Crime Commission, that have been identified in these papers.  This shows the web of tax minimisation and avoidance, and serious criminal activity and behaviour, are linked.”

Yesterday, more than 40 prominent Australians voiced their frustration at the governement’s silence over the leak, calling for Turnbull to scrap secrecy laws that allow accountants and lawyers to help clients siphon away public money.  The open letter was signed by Tim Costello, the head of World Vision Australia, Cassandra Goldie, chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Service, and prominent academic Robert Manne and other.

In Jordan’s view, the size of the data release means that countries can’t tackle the problem of international tax avoidance in isolation.  The OECD’s Joint International Tax Shelter Information and Collaboration network met last week to formalise and international approach to the crack down on the tax crimes revealed in the leaked documents.

“An action plan was developed and member countries undertook to build a comprehensive tax risk picture for their own jurisdiction, and share information,” Jordan said.

“All 35 jurisdictions represented at the meeting signed-up to take joint compliance action where appropriate.  The Network is also exploring the use of taskforces and smaller working groups to make faster inroads.”