This article was written by Jerome Tse and Amanda Kazacos.
Yesterday, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released the “Pandora Papers”, 11.9 million leaked files (2.94 terabytes of data) that date back to the 1970s, detailing private financial documents of offshore business structures from 14 offshore service providers. This is the fourth release of documents by the ICIJ, with the 2013 Offshore Leak from the Portcullis offshore group, the Panama Papers in 2016 and the Paradise Papers in 2017. The ICIJ is planning of publishing some of the documents in November with the rest in early 2022.
Relevantly from an Australian context, one of the 14 service providers in the leak (Asiaciti Trust Asia) was founded and run by an Australian accountant with Australian clients (1.8 million files were obtained from Asiaciti Trust Asia) and currently it has been reported that there are at least 402 Australians named (although this may increase over the coming days).
The ATO have released a statement that acknowledges that they will analyse the information to identify any possible Australian links. In addition, the ATO has stated that for those that “cheat the system” “your secrets are no longer safe, and you can expect to feel serious consequences for your actions. No complicated money trail is too difficult for us to unravel.”
The release of the Pandora Papers combined with the recently released ATO Taxpayer Alert TA 2021/2 concerning undeclared foreign income is a stark warning to taxpayers that any offshore undeclared foreign income will more likely than not be found and assessed by the ATO. We have been assisting many ultra high net wealth individuals and private groups come to grips with these issues. For further details on how to best equip yourself for a review by the ATO on any undeclared foreign income, see our previously published alert.