Global strategy to hunt tax evaders needed: Australia

[SYDNEY] Hunting tax evaders identified by the Panama Papers leak requires a global response, a top Australian official has said, proposing a joint investigation by 28 countries to pool data, according to a report on Wednesday.

The plan by Australian Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan, who has a reputation for his direct approach to multinational companies over their tax affairs, will be discussed at a meeting of global tax officials in Paris, the Australian Financial Review said.

Mr Jordan said a six-country collaboration he set up in 2012 to investigate the world's largest e-commerce companies was the prototype for the Panama Papers probe.

"We're basically trying to get the bigger picture," he told the newspaper. "It's never been tried on this scale before.

"A number of countries have got slices or pieces of the data and that's been very useful, but really, the start of the conversation is to work out who's got what, how we can pool that information and start to work together." The meeting to thrash out a global strategy will be convened by Australia on Wednesday as chair of the Joint International Tax Shelter Information and Collaboration (JITSIC) network - part of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The explosive leak of 11.5 million documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca earlier this month revealed the confidential dealings of world leaders, celebrities and sports stars.

The scandal has already caused the Icelandic prime minister to resign while several countries, including Australia, have opened legal probes following the revelations.

Of the more than 800 Australians listed in the Mossack Fonseca files, 80 of them are linked to serious and organised crime, the newspaper said.

The documents were exposed in a global media project led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The Financial Review said the organisation plans to release the names of all of the 240,000 offshore entities set up by Mossack Fonseca, along with directors and shareholders, next month.

That would provide tax authorities with names to pursue in tax information exchange agreements.

"There needs to be agreement on pooling information, on collaboration, and a framework to go forward," Mr Jordan said of Wednesday's meeting, which the ATO's head of international tax Mark Konza will chair.

"I did encourage other commissioners to send similar people of senior level," he added.

"And then it will be devolved to more operational people in the JITSIC network. It's got to be the right sort of people - not transfer pricing, not international tax specialists. It's data analytics people we need."


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