Wednesday, 01 May 2019 08:27

ATO plans crackdown on people trading in cryptocurrencies Featured

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The Australian Taxation Office plans to use data matching to crack down on Australians trading in cryptocurrencies and not paying the correct amount of tax.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the ATO said it was collecting bulk records from authorised cryptocurrency traders - what the ATO refers to as designated service providers or DSPs - in the country, and it would form a key element in the agency's compliance program.

Deputy Commissioner Will Day said: “The ATO uses third-party data to improve the integrity of the tax system by identifying taxpayers who fail to disclose their income details correctly.

"We also use third-party data to assist taxpayers in meeting their tax obligations through pre-filling of tax returns. This data will be collected under notice from the DSPs on an ongoing basis,”

The ATO said there had been a significant amount of growth in the uptake of crypto-assets and estimated that between half a million and a million Australians had invested in these currencies.

"Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology is seen as an enabler of existing risks for the ATO," the agency said.

"Cryptocurrency has been used to move funds within the black economy, hide money offshore, and is sometimes linked to risks with unexplained wealth and undeclared taxable capital gains."

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission will also be helping the ATO to ensure tax law requirements "align with a whole of system approach".

"The ATO is also working in a joint international effort as part of the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement, aimed at investigating cryptocurrency-related tax evasion and money laundering,” Day said.

After the data matching is done, people may be contacted and allowed to verify the information collected, before any compliance action is undertaken. They will be given at least 28 days for clarifications.

“We want to help taxpayers to get it right and ensure they are paying the correct amount of tax,” Day said. “Where people find that they have made an error or omission in their tax return they should contact the ATO as soon as possible. Penalties may be significantly reduced in circumstances where we are contacted prior to an audit.”

The statement said taxpayers could correct a mistake by requesting a self-amendment or making a voluntary disclosure. The ATO's data-matching strategies are detailed here.

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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