Australia’s tax authority has declared intentions to track citizens who hide their cryptocurrency gains offshore using data-matching services that also target “unexplained assets and wealth”.
Earlier in 2018, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) published guidelines on the taxation of virtual currencies. It highlighted Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that behave similarly to Bitcoin as neither being money, or foreign currency, but a property deemed similar to assets, making them liable for capital gains tax.
Despite the bullish comments from Tony Richards, head of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) in June, it was evident in his eyes that the mainstream adoption of virtual currencies wasn’t to happen in the foreseeable future, which may have contributed to the “asset” classification.
Also in June, ATO announced its enforcement of crypto tax requirements through a 100-point check, which is a system that will be utilizing sophisticated data-matching techniques and is a system already favored by the Australian government as well as other sectors.
Through existing data-sharing agreements with over 40 other nations, the ATO can now target crypto-investors trading on offshore exchanges. It is estimated by the country’s accounting body CPA Australia that this will be the first time ever that “hundreds of thousands” of Australian taxpayers will make cryptocurrency tax declarations.
However, ATO acting deputy commissioner Martin Jacobs believes it is impossible to tell just how many will be including gains and losses on cryptocurrencies in their tax returning this year.
End of double taxation
Up until now, there had been a “double tax” on cryptocurrencies which lifted on 1 July 2018. The 2017-2018 Budget Summary writes: “The Government will make it easier for new innovative digital currency businesses to operate in Australia… purchases of digital currency will no longer be subject to the GST.”
It later added: “Currently, consumers who use digital currencies can effectively bear GST twice: once on the purchase of the digital currency and once again on its use in exchange for other goods and services subject to the GST.”
Speaking with local media outlet the Australian Financial Review (AFR) Jacobs said, “Our feeling is that the vast majority of investors who joined the bubble in 2017 are likely to be in the loss position as opposed to a gain… The other assumption is they probably haven’t disposed of their cryptocurrency. They might just be holding it.”
Under that condition, there would be no tax implications; Jacobs did reveal that the ATO isn’t “alarmed” by the crypto-specific tax compliance risks.
He said, “Where people attempt to deliberately avoid these obligations we will attempt to take action. We have a range of existing powers that are designed to address unexplained wealth and conspicuous consumption that may arise through profits derived through cryptocurrency investment.”
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