A TAXATION lawyer warns the Australian Tax Office (ATO) will be more vigilant than ever in 2010 as it seeks to claw back funds drained by the global financial crisis.
David Hughes, a partner in Southport law firm Small Myers Hughes, says the ATO’s capability to monitor tax avoidance is greater than ever and that ‘aggressive revenue collection was a certainty’ this year.
Hughes is the first Gold Coast lawyer to achieve Queensland Law Society accreditation as a tax law specialist. Hughes says high on the list of ATO priorities are audits relating to investment property deductions, incorrect claims for GST refunds and taxation issues associated with family trusts and self-managed superannuation funds.
“There are many legal strategies that ensure businesses are not over-taxed but the tax office’s abilities to match data and discover schemes that fall outside of the law are more refined than ever — if in doubt, get a second opinion,” he says.
Hughes says the Gold Coast’s long-term reputation as a haven for tax scams is largely unjustified but warns company directors to heavily scrutinise any schemes offering new tax avoidance windfalls.
“Tax scams such as the infamous bottom of the harbour schemes of the 1970s, and more recently, the use of offshore havens, were hatched in the nation’s southern capitals and not on the Coast; and yet those involved with such schemes here got the biggest headlines,” says Hughes.
“These schemes reflected badly on the Gold Coast’s image, when in reality the Coast now offers highly reputable and sophisticated professional services that are the equivalent of any in the capital cities.”
The Queensland Government will also target payroll tax and land tax collections.
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