The Australian Taxation Office has confirmed that it is aware the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has released wide-ranging leaked data referred to as the Pandora Papers.
However, the ATO says it doesn’t rely on data leaks to the media to do its job and is constantly investigation possible offshore tax-dodging by the country’s taxpayers, as well as other criminality.
The Pandora Papers, published on Sunday, are based on documents leaked to the ICIJ and exposes the offshore business and financial dealings of kings, presidents and prime ministers. These include Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The leaked records come from 14 offshore services firms from around the world and the ICIJ – a network of reporters and media organisations – launched a two-year effort to sift through 11.9-million confidential files leaked to it.
Information reaches ATO from various sources
Will Day, who is ATO Deputy Commissioner and head of its Serious Financial Crime Taskforce, said the organisation regularly received information from a range of different sources in its efforts to fight tax evasion and crime.
“While the information in data leaks is interesting, we don’t rely on data leaks to do our job. We detect, investigate and deal with offshore tax evasion year-round,” Day stated.
But he noted that the ATO would be analysing the information contained in the Pandora Papers to identify any possible Australian links.
“We are well connected locally and globally in our efforts to fight financial crime. We will certainly look at this data set and compare it with the data we already have to identify any potential connections,” Day said.
ATO has strong global partnerships and treaties
He added that the ATO had strong international partnerships, as well as treaties and agreements, that enabled a collaborative approach to identifying and addressing international tax evasion and crime.
It was important to remember that being included in a data leak did not automatically mean that there had been tax evasion or crime, the Deputy Commissioner emphasised.
“There are a range of legitimate reasons that someone may have for an offshore bank account or structure. We know most Australians do the right thing. However, there are some who attempt to hide their ownership interests,” he said.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald there are around 400 Australians, out of the total 40,000 global citizens, who have been caught up in the Pandora Papers. However, at this stage is no suggestion that their actions are illegal.