Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Story of Project Wickenby

Find out how Project Wickenby started, how the agencies worked together and the lasting impact on the Australian community. For more information visit https://www.taxmatters.gov.au
The story of Project Wickenby 

Targeting tax crime: a whole-of government-approach - Wickenby, a lasting legacy [https://www.ato.gov.au/General/The-fight-against-tax-crime/In-detail/Targeting-Tax-Crime-magazine/2015/Targeting-tax-crime--Wickenby,-a-lasting-legacy/] - The ATO has issued a special final issue of its "Targeting tax crime" magazine focusing on its reflections of Project Wickenby. This is the final edition of the magazine in its current, PDF format. In future, the ATO says it will be publishing articles relating to tax crime under a new "news & updates" section of the taxmatters.gov.au [http://taxmatters.gov.au/] site.

Reflections on Project Wickenby
Written by Michael D’Ascenzo, former ATO Commissioner.

As Project Wickenby officially comes to an end, it seems timely
to reflect on the journey, and the legacy the program leaves.
As former Commissioner of Taxation I saw Wickenby as an
important and pioneering way to protect honest taxpayers
from those who would abuse Australia’s tax system.
During my tenure, we saw a massive attitudinal shift in the way
the community perceived and reacted to tax crime.
We began to see white collar crime being recognised by the 
community as serious crime. We recognised that there were
real victims, and in relation to tax fraud it was the honest
taxpayer that was being cheated. White collar crime was not
to be left in the too-hard basket. For example, the prosecution
of those involved in tax crime built community trust in the tax
system. Such action rea rmed for the general public that the
perpetrators of so called ‘white collar crime' were not above
the law. Firm action showed that the Commonwealth had the
resolve to bring these criminals to book notwithstanding the
subterfuge, secrecy and misrepresentations that often clothed
their fraudulent behaviour ..
Even though Project Wickenby is officially coming to a
close at the end of this financial year, its deterrent
message has been heard. Wickenby has reduced
international tax evasion of Australian taxable income, it
has recouped substantial amounts of tax, and it has
provided the community with renewed confidence in its
tax system. Wickenby has also provided the template
for collaborative cross agency responses to serious and
organised crime.

"The current focus on multinational profit shifting is also attributable to Wickenby. Wickenby told us that some taxpayers and advisers play to those secrecy havens or dark pools in the global economy. It’s therefore no surprise that multinationals also park billions in countries like Bermuda, especially facilitated by the digital economy." [via MO'N] 

Post Script: In April 2012, Stuart Hamilton was the assistant deputy commissioner of risk strategy with the Australian Taxation Office’s large business line and had then been involved in taxation compliance matter for nearly three decades ...  Project Wickenby: the ATO’s drive against tax evasion

On 2 October 2014, the Senate referred an inquiry into corporate tax avoidance to the Senate Economics References Committee [http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Economics/Corporate_Tax_Avoidance] for inquiry and report by the first sitting day in June 2015. The Senate has now granted an extension to the Committee to report by 13 August 2015.
The latest hearing of the Committee was held in Sydney on1 July 2015 where it heard from the following companies: AstraZeneca Pty Ltd, Pfizer Australia Pty Ltd, GlaxoSmithKline Australia Ltd, Johnson and Johnson, Sanofi, Merck, Sharp and Dohme, Roche Products Pty Ltd, Novartis Australia, and Eli Lilly Australia Pty Ltd. The Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan and Mr Mark Konza, ATO Deputy Commissioner, Public Groups of International, also appeared before the Committee.
The Committee's Terms of Reference stated that it would examine tax avoidance and aggressive minimisation by corporations registered in Australia and multinational corporations operating in Australia, with specific reference to a number of matters eg:

1. the adequacy of Australia's current laws;
2. any need for greater transparency to deter tax avoidance and provide assurance that all companies are complying fully with Australia's tax laws.

The Committee received over 100 submissions.

CODA:  The founder of cabling concern Davnet, Moignard quit in 2001 and moved to Hong Kong. He has complained bitterly of being pursued by the Australian Taxation Office's Wickenby taskforce.
Moignard now runs the Terra Rosa Wine Club on his Coonawarra vineyard. His latest vintage honours his nemesis, with two drops named:
Tax Collector and Deputy Commissioner.