On Monday 4 April 2016, the ATO released a statement confirming that it has ‘recently’ received a ‘data’ in relation to a a ‘Panamanian law firm’ which has come from ‘a release of data by transparency or media organisations in Australia and overseas’.

They do not identify the actual ‘organisations’ who released this data or what it was. However it has been widely reported that the data came from over 11.5 million documents released on Sunday 3 April 2016 from an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) which the ICIJ said the information was published by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other news organisations around the globe. The ICIJ said the leaked documents came from a law firm based in Panama which they identified as Mossack Fonseca.

The ATO says it has identified over 800 individual taxpayers and has now linked over 120 of them to an associate offshore service provider located in Hong Kong. These cases relate to the release of data by transparency or media organisations in Australia and overseas, the ATO said.

ATO Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston said that since the completion of its offshore disclosure initiative “Project DO IT”, the ATO has ramped up its compliance work to deal with those taxpayers who have failed to disclose offshore income and assets. Sharing information and coordinating action closely with other tax administrations is a large part of this work, he said.

Mr Cranston said the ATO has been analysing the latest data against information these taxpayers had reported to the ATO and against the information it already has. The ATO is also working closely with the AFP, Australian Crime Commission and AUSTRAC to further cross-check the data and strengthen its intelligence. Some cases may be referred to the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce, Mr Cranston said.

The information the ATO has includes some taxpayers who the ATO had previously investigated, as well as a small number who disclosed their arrangements with the ATO under Project DO IT. It also includes a large number of taxpayers who haven’t previously come forward, including high wealth individuals, and the ATO is already taking action on those cases, Mr Cranston said.

[ATO website] [ICIJ website] [Related TT article] [LTN 62, 4/4/16]