Acting ATO deputy commissioner Will Day welcomed the ATO's role in the taskforce, saying phoenix activity alone is costing the Australian economy billions.
“It’s costing honest businesses almost $2 billion in unpaid debts and the non-supply of purchased goods and services,” Mr Day said.
“Businesses are not being paid for the products and services they supply and employees of phoenix operators are losing up to $655 million in unpaid wages and entitlements such as super.
“The work being done by the Phoenix taskforce makes it harder for dishonest business operators to get away with closing down their business, escaping their taxes and other creditors and then re-emerging with a similar business,” Mr Day said.
Set up just over 18 months ago to examine taxpayers using trust structures to avoid or evade taxes, the trusts taskforce has already raised $350 million in liabilities and $61.8 million in collections, according to the ATO.
“Although it has been up and running for over a year, the decision to prescribe the taskforce means we can now share tax-related intelligence and data with more agencies,” Mr Day said.
“We know that most businesses and families who have trust arrangements in place use them legitimately and are doing the right thing.
“The Trusts Taskforce is cracking down on those exploiting trusts to conceal their interests, mischaracterise transactions and artificially deal with trust income to avoid paying their fair share of tax,” he said.
As of 31 January 2015, the taskforce has finalised 21 audits and 397 reviews. Seven cases involving serious exploitation of trusts have been escalated to possible law enforcement action and two taxpayers are currently before the courts on serious criminal charges in relation to Trusts Taskforce-related matters.
The Trusts Taskforce is expected to raise $415 million in liabilities and $165 million in collections by the end of 2016 and is made up of the ATO, Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Crime Commission (ACC), Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), Australian Government Solicitor (AGS), Attorney-General's Department (AGD), AUSTRAC, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Australian Business Register (ABR) and Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.
The Phoenix Taskforce is made up of the ATO, ASIC, AFP, ACC, ABR, the Fair Work Ombudsman, Fair Work Building and Construction, the Department of Environment, the Department of Employment, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the NSW and Victorian Offices of State Revenue.