As published on afr.com, Monday 3 April, 2023.
Financial records of Australians with money held overseas are included in an OECD tax transparency program tracking more than 111 million bank accounts globally, with a combined value of more than €11 trillion ($17.5 trillion).
OECD tax boss David Bradbury said the automatic exchange of information between revenue authorities around the world was one of the most significant international anti-avoidance measures under way.
The information-sharing effort covers data including bank account balances, dividends and earnings, from accounts held by individuals and entities, including trusts and foundations, through rules agreed by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
“The latest four-year data that was available indicated 111 million financial accounts had been exchanged between countries,” Mr Bradbury told The Australian Financial Review ahead of a major conference on tax administration in Sydney starting Tuesday.
“This sends a very clear message that you cannot squirrel money away in offshore accounts and that tax administrations are not going to be aware of them.
“What we have had countries report is that has actually led to something in the order of €114 billion of tax, interest and penalties that have been identified and collected as a result of these measures. So this is really significant stuff.”
The former Labor MP will tell UNSW’s 15th International Conference on Tax Administration tracking financial transactions and holdings in the crypto asset space was a key emerging challenge.
“Crypto is just another example of where every time we make some progress, we have to be careful that developments around us don’t move ahead more quickly. If they do, then we need to be prepared to act and to act together with countries to try and come up with responses that will address.”
He said countries around the world looked to the Australian Taxation Office on major tax administration measures and digitisation.
Deputy director of the OECD’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, Mr Bradbury works alongside OECD director-general and former finance minister Mathias Cormann.
The organisation is wrangling more than 130 countries for a deal to overhaul global tax rules, including setting a minimum global corporate tax rate and bringing tech giants fully into the international tax net.
Delayed by political gridlock and the COVID-19 pandemic, the two-pillar plan is inching towards implementation, with progress in the European Union and countries including South Korea, Japan and Singapore continuing.
Mr Bradbury took part in a roundtable event on multinational taxation at Parliament House on Monday, joining Assistant Minister for Treasury Andrew Leigh and representatives of corporate Australia, unions and the community sector.
Organised by UNSW, the conference event will hear from Tax Office second commissioner Jeremy Hirschhorn, and Inspector-General of Taxation Karen Payne.
Jennie Granger, UNSW Business School Professor of Practice, said effective tax administration shaped nations.
“Tax is not just about collecting money for governments. How well it works, and who it works for, shapes who we are as nations.
“The community shouldn’t believe – or allow – that the wealthy get far better outcomes when it comes to tax, simply because they have deep pockets: just as the vulnerable shouldn’t get poor outcomes because they can’t afford representation.”
Professor Granger said the program had a focus on success for Indigenous businesses, the environmental, social, and corporate governance movement and help for vulnerable taxpayers.