Tuesday 10 April 2012

Australian Exceptionalism: ATO Edition.

George Osborne. [A}
Oh my! The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, is "shocked".

According to The Guardian (UK):

" 'I was shocked to see that some of the very wealthiest people in the country have organised their tax affairs, and to be fair it's within the tax laws, so that they were regularly paying virtually no income tax. And I don't think that's right,' Osborne told the Daily Telegraph.
" 'I'm talking about people right at the top. I'm talking about people with incomes of many millions of pounds a year.
" 'The general principle is that people should pay income tax and that includes people with the highest incomes'."
(See here)

And you can't blame Osborne for being shocked: wealthy individuals using legal and semi-legal subterfuges provided by legislators in order to avoid paying taxes? Unthinkable!

That's why, after reducing the top marginal personal income rate from 50% to 45%, in a move to reduce fiscal deficit (!?), Osborne also will be "going after the wealthy tax dodgers".


Meanwhile, in Australia, the Australian Taxation Office had been auditing high income earners for a while, to the latter great displeasure:
"TRACY BOWDEN, PRESENTER: The Australian Tax Office has been accused of abusing its power and squandering taxpayers' money on futile court cases designed simply to chase revenue rather than enforce the law. The claims are made by a group of Tax Office staff who raise a raft of concerns about the tactics used by the ATO in its crackdown on so-called high wealth individuals. The whistleblowers say that instead of acting on their complaints, the Tax Office turned its sights on them. PETA CARLYON has this exclusive report.
"PETA CARLYON, REPORTER: As business and political leaders were meeting in Canberra for last year's tax forum, in Melbourne a senior auditor from the Australian Tax Office was contemplating some serious issues of her own. Serene Teffaha had been at the ATO for eight years when the Tax Office bolstered its crackdown on so-called high wealth individuals or businesses worth between $100 and $250 million a year. Her job was to assess taxpayer objections to the scheme. It wasn't long before alarm bells sounded".
(See here. Emphasis added)
Exceptional, right? And the report closes with Teffaha's dramatic words:
"SERENE TEFFAHA: The unchecked and unfettered powers of the ATO I believe are unparalleled. They might not be physically hurting you directly, but they're most certainly psychologically and mentally waging a horrific war."
After this statement, readers would be forgiven to ask: Have HM's Antipodean subjects started an exceptional campaign of terror against high wealth individuals?

But don't worry dear readers. Teffaha, who alleged has been harassed by the ATO, was probably referring to this harassment suffered by her. Not that it is evident from the crafty way the report was edited.

Logically, the outcry will be to stop this inhuman harassment... against the high wealth individuals who avoid taxes.

That is, until someone at taxpayer-funded ABC News realizes, as Osborne did, that shocking possibility: maybe high wealth Aussies are not an exception, after all, and also enjoy their "tax avoidance".

Image Credit:
[A] George Osborne. HM Treasury. Open Government Licence v1.0. Wikipedia.

11-04-2012. I missed a very telling detail in that report (I've just highlighted it in Tracy Bowden's quote above): so, the accusation goes, ATO is "squandering taxpayers' money", because it is "chasing revenue". Now, that's great: ATO should save taxpayers' money by allowing tax cheats!

Man, I love this shit.

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