The ATO’s ‘Tax Avoidance Taskforce – Trusts’ continues the work of the Trusts Taskforce, by targeting higher risk trust arrangements in privately owned and wealthy groups.
The Taskforce will focus on the lodgment of trust tax returns, accurate completion of return labels, present entitlement of exempt entities, distributions to superannuation funds, and inappropriate claiming of CGT concessions by trusts.
Arrangements that attract the attention of the Taskforce include those where:
- trusts or their beneficiaries who have received substantial income are not registered, or have not lodged tax returns or activity statements;
- there are offshore dealings involving secrecy or low tax jurisdictions;
- there are agreements with no apparent commercial basis that direct income entitlements to a low-tax beneficiary while the benefits are enjoyed by others;
- changes have been made to trust deeds or other constituent documents to achieve a tax planning benefit, with such changes not credibly explicable for other reasons;
- there are artificial adjustments to trust income, so that tax outcomes do not reflect the economic substance (e.g. where someone receives substantial benefits from a trust but the tax liability on those benefits is attributed elsewhere, or where the full tax liability is passed to entities with no capacity/intention to pay);
- transactions have excessively complex features or sham characteristics (e.g., round robin circulation of income among trusts);
- revenue activities are mischaracterised to achieve concessional CGT treatment (e.g., by using special purpose trusts in an attempt to re-characterise mining or property development income as discountable capital gains); and
- new trust arrangements have materialised that involve taxpayers or promoters linked to previous non-compliance (e.g., people connected to liquidated entities that had unpaid tax debts)