On 27 March 2014, the ATO announced “Project DO IT: disclose offshore income today”, focussed on taxpayers who earn income from overseas sources and have foreign assets. As part of this project the ATO will provide an opportunity for taxpayers to make voluntary disclosures until 19 December 2014 in return for reduced penalties.
The ATO notes that its ability to detect undisclosed foreign income is increasing and it will soon automatically exchange tax information with a greater number of countries. The ATO is targeting taxpayers who omit foreign income and capital gains or over-claimed deductions in their returns.
Taxpayers who make a voluntary disclosure and the ATO accepts into the project will receive a number of assurances from the ATO, including:
- This will be treated as a voluntary amendment request;
- Assessments will only go back as far as the amendment period for the taxpayer, typically 4 years;
- The tax shortfall penalty will be applied at 10%, or if their additional income is less than $20,000 no shortfall penalty will apply (interest will still apply); and
- They will not be referred for criminal investigation.
It’s important to ensure that clients are aware of this opportunity so they can decide whether to approach the ATO. Clients who have unreported foreign income or assets but do not participate in the program are at risk of much more aggressive review and audit activity.