Video 4:02 How do the rich evade tax? The Business asks the million dollar question
Andrew Robertson Updated Чт 18 апр 2013, 12:43 AM AEST
The front page news that actor Paul Hogan has lost track of $34 million hidden in offshore tax havens has put the spotlight back on tax evasion. It is big business, and the pressure from Governments on tax evaders will only intensify as they struggle to balance their budgets.
TICKY FULLERTON, PRESENTER: The front page news that actor Paul Hogan has lost track of $34 million hidden in offshore tax havens has put the spotlight back on tax evasion.
It's big business and the pressure from governments on tax evaders will only intensify as they struggle to balance their budgets.
But how do the tax evaders do it? Chief reporter Andrew Robertson has been on the case.
ANDREW ROBERTSON, REPORTER: They're some of the most beautiful locations in the world, where the rich and famous go to play and where they also go to avoid the taxman.
DAVID CHAIKEN, UNI. OF SYDNEY BUSINESS SCHOOL: If you're setting up a hedge fund, you tend to use Cayman Islands; if you want a captive insurance company, you tend to use Bermuda; if you want some sort of funds management company, Jersey is preferred by the rich.
ANDREW ROBERTSON: Associate Professor David Chaiken is a leading global expert in tax evasion and money laundering and has advised the United Nations and the OECD.
There's billions of dollars at stake, which is why governments around the world are targeting the tax avoiders. As budget deficits rise, the pressure to crack down on the cheats will increase.
Professor Chaiken, if I had $20 or $30 or $40 million and didn't fancy paying 46.5 per cent income tax or in fact any tax at all, what's the best way to evade that tax?
DAVID CHAIKEN: The best way is to use schemes and devices to conceal from the tax authorities the money. And the second technique that's typically used is to engage in deceptive practices, to hide that money in offshore jurisdictions where the entities are controlled by accountants and lawyers, but you are the beneficial owner of those accounts.
ANDREW ROBERTSON: For example, money in Australia can be transferred overseas. Its owner issues fraudulent invoices for business expenses, a tax deduction is then claimed and as well the money is no longer under Australian jurisdiction.
For money already overseas, structures like trusts can be used to hide it. So its owner can have access, credit cards are issued against a foreign bank which can be used here in Australia.
Crocodile Dundee creator and star Paul Hogan is again in the headlines over his fortune stashed overseas. A document tendered to a California court late last year shows the actor to be the beneficial owner of a Swiss bank account said to contain millions of dollars. The trustees of Paul Hogan's trust are suing a man Hogan claims has absconded with his money, but the actor has refused to be part of the case.
DAVID CHAIKEN: The risk is that the Australian taxation authorities may reopen their case, aid a settlement, but that the criminal authorities, whether it be the Australian Crime Commission that's been working on Project Wickenby, would reopen a criminal investigation into Mr Hogan.
ANDREW ROBERTSON: Paul Hogan and his partner John Cornell were the most high-profile targets of the Australian Tax Office's tax evasion campaign known as Operation Wickenby. An eight-year battle over $150 million in alleged unpaid taxes was finally settled last year without the pair being charged.
With tax havens increasingly being squeezed, are we seeing the rich become more creative to try and avoid tax?
DAVID CHAIKEN: The tax defence industry is alive and thriving in many, many different jurisdictions. Lawyers and accountants and advisors have been called upon to become even more creative in their schemes in order to conceal what they are hiding from the tax authorities.
ANDREW ROBERTSON: The Tax Office so far has spent half a billion dollars on Project Wickenby, but says the result is $700 million in revised assessments and another $1.6 billion potentially owing. It's the prospect of returns like that which will keep governments going hard at the people they regard as tax cheats.
The Business Posted Ср 17 апр 2013, 9:49 PM AESTSource: mobile.abc.net.au