Lawyer flags areas increasingly targeted by ATO

One industry lawyer has outlined areas that the ATO has increased its surveillance and activity broadly and in the SMSF sector, noting it is getting particularly "aggressive" with offshore investments.

Speaking to SMSF Adviser, Arnold Bloch Leibler partner Clint Harding noted the ATO’s surveillance capabilities have vastly improved in the last three years, as the government continues to direct funding and resources towards specific compliance targets.

Money coming to Australia from overseas is high on the ATO’s watch list, Mr Harding said, which can involve funds that make their way into an SMSF.

"When money crosses the border it sets off a little flag with Austrac, and the ATO is now getting pretty aggressive in terms of sending letters to people demanding that they explain the nature of the money," he said.

"If that’s not clear, the ATO will certainly ask the question, and put the onus on people to demonstrate where it’s come from and what it is," he added.

Residency statuses is also a key item on the ATO’s agenda, Mr Harding said, in particular where a taxpayer is trying to convince the ATO that they have ceased to become an Australian resident.

Mr Harding said the ATO is closely monitoring the activity of these taxpayers, and again actively pursuing and questioning where there is an element of doubt.

The ATO told SMSF Adviser earlier this year there would be several items on the regulatory radar in the 2016-17 financial year specifically for SMSFs, including related party transactions, out-of-pattern growth in the value of an SMSF, and the tax treatment of funds in pension phase.

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