ATO to investigate temporary visas

by Rose Sneyd30 Apr 2013

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has announced that it will undertake a data-matching exercise, targeting one million holders of Australian temporary visas. Assisting its investigation, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship will provide names, addresses and other personal details of all individuals issued with one of 27 types of temporary visas between 1 January 2012 and 30 June 2014.

Data-matching programmes in the past have revealed an 'elevated level of risk' of non-compliance and fraud associated with temporary working visas, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. "[Personal details] will be electronically matched and analysed with certain sections of ATO data holdings to identify potential fraud, and other non-compliance with lodgement and payment obligations under taxation law," the ATO said.

The targeted visas include those in the following categories:
 

  • Skilled workers – 457 visa
  • Specialist
  • Working holiday
  • Media and staff
  • Entertainment
  • Sport
  • Religious
  • Academic
  • Trainee
  • Medical practitioners
  • Domestic worker
  • Students
  • Student guardian
  • Retirement

Short-term business visas have been excluded at this point.

RSM Bird Cameron stated in a media release that they expected the ATO to focus on employers paying salary or wages to employees, and their obligation to withhold tax under PAYG-W. “Whether you are a visa holder or an employer, now is the time to clarify your tax position before the ATO takes action. If you hold one of these visas, do not be complacent,” Jane Wood, of RSM Bird Cameron, said.

Fines of up to $13,200 and two-year jail sentences can be awarded to individual employers who knowingly hire an illegal worker, while companies may be fined up to $66,000 for each illegal worker.

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