Tim Dyce, the deputy Tax Office commissioner for private wealth, said it was a big expansion of manpower and resources behind anti-avoidance measures.
“We have some very sophisticated risk engines that identify work that we need to do. We’ve got pretty good engagement with the population that we deal with,” he told The Australian Financial Review.
“A lot of them actually pay a lot of tax, but we’ve also got a very good focus on where we think there’s a difference.
“We’re also putting in place a whole lot of processes designed to prevent problems, rather than just deal with them after the event. We’re focusing very heavily in addition to examinations of the top 500 companies and the top 5000 high wealth individuals and even the population below that.”
Already this financial year, about $16 billion in transactions have been scrutinised, prompting the ATO to approach companies for detailed explanations.
“The balance is now starting to shift,” Mr Dyce said. “We’ve done quite a bit of promotion to the market to say instead of waiting for us to knock on your door, why don’t you knock on ours?”
Since the anti-avoidance taskforce began work in July 2016 an additional $14 billion in tax liabilities have been raised, with about $8.2 billion coming from large groups, companies and wealthy individuals.
“There will be revenue delivered from our program,” Mr Dyce said.
“Get your house in order if you want to and you can make the process a bit less painful.”
BDO tax partner Carlo Moretti said the expanded crackdown on wealthy businesses and related families made sense for the federal budget.
“There’s gold in them hills,” he said. “The message is private families really need to review their tax affairs.
“Spider charts are being compiled, covering who associates are, who do they do business with, who are their joint venture partners, even who are the key executives. There’s a lot of profiling and data analytics going into it.
“When you ramp up an anti-avoidance taskforce in this way, it’s clear that they must be seeing trends that are worrying them. Obviously they must think that there’s more revenue to be had.”
The ATO is preparing to release its latest tax gap analysis for individuals in early 2020.
In 2018, the gap was estimated to be worth $8.7 billion, or 6.4 per cent of the total tax take. That figure was more than three times the estimated loss from large companies.