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ATO sets sights on tax scheme 'predators'

Identifying an increase in the number of illegal tax schemes operating within Australia, the ATO has promised "significant punishment" for any accountant caught promoting such schemes to clients.

ATO sets sights on tax scheme 'predators'
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As part of its broader focus on illegal tax schemes, the ATO has today launched an initiative designed to identify the promoters of tax avoidance schemes and protect consumers.

ATO deputy commissioner Michael Cranston said while the ATO has had considerable success in shutting down tax avoidance schemes, it has recently seen an increase in schemes targeting those approaching retirement.

Some of the main groups being targeted, according to the ATO, are small business owners, company directors and property investors.

Mr Cranston said the promoters of these schemes also recognise the role that tax professionals play, and are therefore also targeting accountants with the aim of getting them to recommend these schemes to clients.

Most of the schemes are contrived and complex, involving considerable paper shuffling. They are designed to leave the taxpayer with minimal or zero tax, or even a tax refund.

“Promoters of retirement planning schemes may incur significant punishment, including prosecution, and where intermediaries are found to have been encouraging clients to adopt these arrangements, the ATO will consider the application of the promoter penalty laws. The ATO may also consider referring the matter to the Tax Practitioners Board,” Mr Cranston said.

“Individuals caught using an illegal scheme identified by the ATO may incur severe penalties under tax laws," he added.

“We do our best to shut down dodgy schemes but the best defence is working together. Blowing the whistle on those promoting retirement planning schemes will help us stop them from risking your or others’ retirement savings."

He stressed the importance of working with the ATO and reporting those who promote these schemes.

“We want to work with you to help protect your clients’ retirement nest eggs from unwanted predators,” Mr Cranston said.

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