The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is well-known for its tenacity when it comes to prosecuting taxation fraud. In many cases, dark data and tip-offs from around the world are painstakingly collected across years (and sometimes decades!) in the pursuit of tax evasion.

We examine the persistence of the ATO in fraud matters, plus provide a few tips on staying across tax compliance obligations.

Tax tracking in the tropics

The successful ATO prosecution of Phillip Northam in 2020 was certainly a coup for tax fraud investigators. On a trip to Australia from sunny Vanuatu, the elusive Mr Northam was probably not expecting to be greeted at the airport by stalwart tax enforcement professionals. Convicted in August by the Brisbane District Court on multiple tax fraud charges, Northam’s case represented the culmination of a 19 year-long, multi-million-dollar ATO investigation into complex company asset stripping and tax evasion.

Leaks and offshore tax fraud

The ATO is also famed for its savvy use of data leaks to force corporate tax disclosure in off-shore activities. The world-wide Panama Papers leak of 2016 continues to see the ATO successfully uncover offshore tax repositories. This has led to more than $140 million in new liabilities raised to date, with a small number of criminal investigations continuing.

Getting ATO compliance right

It pays to have a clear, regular look at your business’s tax structures and reporting history. Changes in personnel and corporate entities can occasionally land otherwise-diligent businesses in hot water. Revisit your tax compliance risk management strategy at least every quarter and apply appropriate risk treatments where needed.

If you are worried about your tax compliance situation, feel free to give us a call.