Paul Hogan, hype and paying tax
Posted by John, September 4th, 2010 - under Paul Hogan, Tax, Tax Office, Tax avoidance, Tax evasion, The Australian.
This is the copy of a letter I sent to The Australian in response to an article about the Hogan tax matter. They won’t publish it.
As a former Assistant Commissioner of Taxation I found Susannah Moran’s puff piece on Paul Hogan (‘Hogan free to return to the US as the heavy hand of the tax office relents’, The Weekend Australian September 4-5, page 1) laughable.
As a current senior lecturer in tax law at the University of Canberra I found it risible.
As an Australian citizen I found it reprehensible.
First, Moran fails to distinguish between the criminal and civil aspects of the various cases she mentions. Tax evasion is a crime, tax avoidance is not.
In April I understand from newspaper reports that Hogan was assessed to pay tax. As a consequence Hogan owes a multi-million debt to the ATO. It is a debt that is payable now and makes Hogan a tax debtor. It is a civil matter. He is fighting it.
It appears the assessments may go back to the mid 80s. The Commissioner can only do that if he believes fraud or evasion is involved. So the civil tax matter when it comes to Court will test that view and put into the public arena the activities upon which the backdated assessments are based. [I have added this paragraph in after the letter was sent.]
As part of the successful Operation Wickenby, Hogan and others are under investigation for possible criminal offences.
Suspected white collar criminals can easily hide or destroy evidence and hence the need for all sorts of quick responses, including if the police and other law enforcement agencies deem it necessary, raids on the homes of the suspected criminals.
Moran seems to be suggesting that raiding the homes of the rich and powerful is inappropriate. This reveals her class bias. Apparently criminal laws are all well and good when they apply to the lower classes. But the same rules shouldn’t apply to the rich. Give me a break Susannah.
Wickenby has exposed this double standard. And the rich don’t like it.
Hence The Australian’s relentless campaign against the criminal and tax aspects of Wickenby and the calls by some for various regulatory bodies to investigate the Project.
These attempts to disrupt and sidetrack criminal and tax investigations are really just cover for protecting the rich and powerful.
Moran thinks issuing Hogan with a Departure Prohibition Order was an ‘extraordinary turn’. She offers no justification for this view.
The Commissioner has the ability to issue DPOs when there is a tax debt outstanding and the Commissioner has reasonable grounds for believing that it is desirable to issue an order to ensure the debtor does not depart Australia without wholly discharging the liability or making arrangements satisfactory to the Commissioner for the tax liability to be discharged.
The ATO has issued 14 DPOs over the last 5 years, mainly as a consequence of Wickenby.
The matters the ATO takes into account in considering whether to issue a DPO include whether known assets are enough to pay the debt, whether those assets are in Australia, if there have been any transfers of funds to relatives or offshore, whether the debtor is under investigation and if there is any evidence to suggest concealment of assets.
Hogan could have sought an order in the courts to have the DPO lifted. He didn’t.
A hard hitting investigative journalist might have asked why not and whether the possibility that the reasons for the Commissioner’s decision to issue the DPO would have been made public in any court case may have influenced Hogan not to seek judicial intervention.
A hard hitting investigative journalist might have asked tax debtor Hogan if he had any connection with various tax havens and, depending on the answer, might then have asked about Trelene Investments and GB Films, two British Virgin Island companies. He or she might then have followed up with questions about whether Hogan or others associated with him have any connection to those companies.
A hard hitting investigative journalist might have explored the QC advice tax debtor Hogan appears to be relying on from about 1986 and what relevance that has to today. Such a journalist might have asked if a piece of advice that appears to be 25 years old has any relevance to tax liabilities today and why tax debtor Hogan appears to be hiding behind what could well be limited, outdated and irrelevant advice.
I could make many many more points but let me finish off by commenting on the first and final points Moran makes. She ends up by saying that ‘Hogan was victorious yesterday..’
And yet she started her Hogan hagiography with the comment that the actor and tax debtor provided a “security” to the ATO – the use of the inverted commas appears deliberate and sends a possibly misleading message – to lift the DPO.
A hard hitting investigative journalist might have asked about the nature of that security, the amount, the requirements it imposed on Hogan and the like.
Moran did none of this. This is not surprising because those campaigning for tax debtor Hogan and against Wickenby and the ATO are protecting the interests of the rich and powerful at the expense of the rest of the community.