The Australian Taxation Office is an Australian Government statutory agency and the principal revenue collection body for the Australian Government. The ATO has responsibility for administering the Australian federal taxation system and superannuation legislation. Responsibility for the operations of the ATO are within the portfolio of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia.As the Australian Government's principal revenue collection body, the ATO collects income tax, Goods & Services Tax and other federal taxes for the government. The ATO also has responsibility for managing the Australian Business Register, delivering the Higher Education Loan Programme, delivering many Australian Government payments and administering key components of Australia's superannuation system. Wikipedia.

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BURLINGTON, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nuance Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: NUAN) today announced that it has received the highest combined rating amongst Intelligent Assistant and bot vendors in the newly-published report by Opus Research, “Decision Makers’ Guide to Enterprise Intelligent Assistants.”* Nuance outscored all other Intelligent Assistant (IA) and bot vendors that were evaluated and ranked highest for its intelligent virtual assistant, underscoring Nuance’s leadership in the industry. Nuance brings a unique omni-channel customer engagement platform to the table that combines the best in self- and assisted-service, enabling a seamless collaboration between human agents and artificially-intelligent virtual assistants to drive better customer service outcomes. In the February 2017 report, Opus Research addresses the importance and value of a virtual assistant/bot strategy for enterprises, stating “successful IA implementations reduce operating costs while improving customer experience and customer satisfaction scores by automating the handling of routine queries and optimizing person-to-person for both agent and customer when interactions require a human touch.” Drawing attention to the rapid IA adoption, “Opus foresees explosive growth of the industry poised to blast through $1 billion in 2016, on the way to $4.5 billion globally by 2021.” The report presents a comprehensive assessment of the current IA and bot solution provider landscape with special focus on vendors offering “enterprise-grade” solutions. Included within is a solution provider comparison chart to help decision-makers evaluate how current enterprise solutions fulfill the requirements of IA. Using a rating system based on Gold, Silver, and Bronze, Opus Research assesses each vendor’s product offerings across seven different criteria, including: Automated Learning, Process Automation, Human Involvement, Analytics & Reporting, Multi-Channel, Track Record, and Affordability/Speed to Deploy. Nuance is awarded a Gold standing in six out of seven categories, the highest combined rating amongst all of the vendors that were evaluated. “The report provides tools and a framework for decision makers to compare the leading solutions providers according to criteria that have direct impact on customer experience and operational efficiencies,” explained Dan Miller, Lead Analyst at Opus Research. “This is especially important as Enterprise Intelligent Assistants grow into their role as focal point in omni-channel self-service.” “It is a great honor to be recognized as the highest ranked provider of virtual assistants by Opus Research,” said Robert Weideman, general manager and executive vice president, Enterprise Division, Nuance. “Nina was introduced by Nuance more than four years ago as one of the first virtual assistants for customer service based on our ongoing work in artificial intelligence and since that time we have innovated alongside the world’s leading brands to deliver the intelligent, personalized, and engaging service that consumers expect.” Nina leverages Nuance’s unparalleled technology leadership and expertise in voice, NLU, conversational dialogue and advanced resolution techniques to deliver a compelling, omni-channel, self- and assisted- customer service experience for the consumer and the enterprise. Nuance Nina has been adopted globally by large organizations such as Australian Taxation Office, Coca-Cola, Domino’s, Garanti Bank, ING Netherlands, IP Australia, Jetstar, Swedbank, Tangerine Bank, USAA, and Windstream. To view a sample or purchase a copy of the report, click here. For more information about Nuance’s Nina, please click here. *Opus Research “Decision Makers’ Guide to Enterprise Intelligent Assistants” by Dan Miller, Derek Top, and Amy Stapleton, February 2017. About Nuance Communications, Inc. Nuance Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: NUAN) is a leading provider of voice and language solutions for businesses and consumers around the world. Its technologies, applications and services make the user experience more compelling by transforming the way people interact with devices and systems. Every day, millions of users and thousands of businesses experience Nuance’s proven applications. For more information, please visit Trademark reference: Nuance and the Nuance logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of Nuance Communications, Inc. or its affiliates in the United States and/or other countries. All other trademarks referenced herein are the property of their respective owners.

News Article | February 17, 2017

Uber has always sat in a weird place in terms of regulation. It doesn't consider itself an employer, but it employs thousands of "driver partners" around the world. It has a presence in Australia, but it's not based in Australia for tax purposes. Think of it kind of like Schroedinger's Cab. But the company has now been hit with a pretty clear label when it comes to paying taxes, after the Federal Court of Australia ruled that UberX ridesharing is classified as a "taxi service" when it comes to paying tax. It's another regulation slapped on a company that has been pushing back against the way its business has been classified around the world. Uber appeared in front of the European Court of Justice last year, claiming it was a software company, not a taxi service. It also faced a ruling from a London court in 2016, determining that its drivers should be classified as employees, not independent contractors. The company first applied to the Australian Federal Court in 2015 to contest an order by the Australian Taxation Office, calling on UberX drivers to pay a 10 percent Goods and Service Tax. The GST is levied on the majority of goods and services sold in Australia. Uber tried to argue that UberX was not the same as a taxi or limousine service, which are required to pay GST, claiming that cars are not marked as taxis, drivers do not wear uniforms and they cannot accept fares off the street. But the Judge presiding on the case deemed that one of the driver partners mentioned in proceedings, Brian Colin Fine, was in fact offering taxi travel through UberX. "I consider that, on 11 September 2015, Mr Fine was supplying taxi travel as defined in... the GST Act when he was operating as an UberX Partner. That is because I consider that, at that time, he was supplying travel that involved transporting passengers by taxi for fares." Furthermore, the court ruled that Uber couldn't claim Mr Fine was offering a limousine service, throwing in a pretty backhanded insult about his car in the process. "I consider that the Honda Civic vehicle which he used on the relevant day is not a luxury car, with the consequence that Mr Fine was not on that day supplying a service which involved travel by limousine." CNET Magazine: Check out a sampling of the stories you'll find in CNET's newsstand edition. Life, Disrupted: In Europe, millions of refugees are still searching for a safe place to settle. Tech should be part of the solution. But is it? CNET investigates.

News Article | December 22, 2016

The federal resources minister has accused the ABC of reporting fake news and thrown his weight behind the energy giant Adani, amid Indian finance ministry investigations into the company. Matt Canavan attacked the ABC for what he described as one-sided coverage of Adani’s plans to build Australia’s biggest coalmine and accused the national broadcaster of having a massive blindspot when it came to the project. The Liberal National party senator from Queensland also said the Adani Carmichael coalmine would improve the environment in central Queensland by setting aside land for birdlife and returning water to the Great Artesian basin. The ABC has run a series of reports around the complex Adani network, including reports of allegations against the ultimate parent company, Adani Enterprises Limited. From the outset of the interview with Kim Landers on the ABC radio program AM, Canavan attacked the broadcaster’s coverage on Adani in the past week. “So many of your reports have been nothing but fake news,” he said. Canavan said the ABC had given no voice to the people of north Queensland in its reports over the mine in the Galilee basin and ABC audiences would not know that the biggest issue in region was a lack of jobs. Asked if he was aware of the investigation by the Indian finance ministry into Adani, Canavan said he had asked the department for advice about it. “As your story indicated, there are no findings at this stage on this investigation,” the minister said. “It’s not unusual, of course, for tax authorities and others to investigate large companies, as has happened in this country with many companies and have involved large settlements with the Australian Taxation Office. “But I don’t know the status of these allegations apart from the fact that they remain allegations.” The Coalition is considering a $1bn loan for a railway for Adani through its Northern Australian Infrastructure Fund (Naif). Canavan said he would take advice from the “independent skills-based board” established to assess projects. He said the issue of whether the government held off on the loan application – until Indian finance ministry investigations into the company were completed – was a matter for Naif. Canavan said he was very confident in the Naif board and his department had advised there was nothing in Adani’s company structure that was inconsistent with Australian laws. “I’m very confident that the Adani project, hopefully it will happen, it will deliver billions of dollars of taxes to both the Queensland and Australian governments,” Canavan said. “Those taxes will go to fund things like the ABC and the good work you do do – and you do do a lot of good work – but we’ve all got our blind spots, Kim, and unfortunately the ABC has a massive one here on this project.” Asked whether the Cayman islands structure had been assessed by the government, Canavan said he welcomed Adani’s decision to have a head office in north Queensland – in Townsville. And he contrasted the decision with the ABC, accusing the organisation of leaving central Queensland without cover by moving a video journalist from Rockhampton to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. “It’s unfortunate that the ABC had an unhappy milestone recently, with more than 50% of your staff are based in Sydney,” he said. “Maybe that does colour your reporting on issues like this?” The ABC’s annual report shows 53.6 % of its full-time-equivalent staff are in New South Wales. The minister said the federal government had placed 36 strict conditions on the Adani project, and predicted the company would improve the environment by setting aside areas and using high-quality coal to displace lower-quality coal. “They will do things that will improve the environment here in central Queensland and they’ll protect an additional 31,000 hectares for the black-throated finch,” Canavan said. “They will limit the drawdown on the springs in the area and also return water to the Great Artesian basin – around 730 megalitres a year. “So these are very strict conditions and this project will be a net environmental plus for the world. Not only will it protect the environment here in central Queensland, it’ll also be using very high-quality coal, which will displace coal that is not as high quality in India or Indonesia, and it’ll be a good thing for the environment.” The Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, said Canavan’s comments showed the “lunatic fringe” was in power. “For Matt Canavan to suggest that Adani’s Carmichael coalmine will be good for the environment, in contrast to all scientific evidence, shows that the lunatic fringe of the Turnbull government is running the show,” Di Natale said. “Matt Canavan’s comments are an embarrassment and if [the prime minister] Malcolm Turnbull is serious about tackling dangerous climate change he will give Australia an early Christmas present by stopping the Adani coalmine from opening and stopping Matt Canavan from opening his mouth.” A spokesman for the ABC said Rockhampton would still have three ABC news reporters, plus two other broadcast journalists and a camera operator who contributed to a range of programs and platforms. “The Sunshine Coast, the second-fastest growing region in Queensland, has two [reporters] and is severely restricted in its ability to produce news and TV stories relevant to its local area and a wider regional audience,” the spokesman said. “Capricornia remains a well-resourced bureau and maintains a larger news team, as well as two other reporters outside of the news team, who can produce television and video news stories. It will also continue to have a dedicated camera operator.”

BURLINGTON, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nuance Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: NUAN) today announced that the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has integrated Nuance’s intelligent virtual assistant, Nina, within the organization’s website. This is another important step on the ATO’s path to transform the online experience for customers by improving their ability to self-serve. In an age where customers are continuously seeking advanced tools for self-service and automation, Nuance’s virtual assistant solution, Nina, offers the ATO’s customers the option to have their questions answered by Alex at Alex provides tailored responses to customer queries using natural language understanding, conversational dialogue and advanced resolution techniques, to answer hundreds of commonly asked questions across a range of categories. This allows agents to spend more time managing complex requests. Since March 2016, more than 950,000 conversations have taken place with Alex, with steady monthly increases occurring from July through to October as many Australian’s focus on submitting their tax returns. The virtual assistant will continue to evolve in its contextual conversations with customers as more people interact with it on a daily basis. “We’re thrilled to provide the ATO with the next phase of intelligent automation technology to foster a seamless and efficient experience for the many customers utilizing the ATO’s online services, day-in and day-out.,” said Robert Schwarz, managing director for Nuance Enterprise, Australia and New Zealand. Initial results show first contact resolution rates of 80 per cent with the ATO’s new virtual assistant Alex, which exceed the industry benchmark of 60-65 per cent. These strong initial results demonstrate an efficient and effective customer experience, indicating that the majority of customer queries are being answered by the virtual assistant. The implementation of Nuance’s intelligent virtual assistant follows the ATO’s use of Nuance voice biometrics across its call center and mobile applications. By providing customers with enhanced, more secure authentication using voice biometrics, the ATO is signifying a proactive step towards enhancing digital services, with over 2.4 million customers enrolled. For more information about Nuance’s Nina, please visit: About Nuance Communications, Inc. Nuance Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: NUAN) is a leading provider of voice and language solutions for businesses and consumers around the world. Its technologies, applications and services make the user experience more compelling by transforming the way people interact with devices and systems. Every day, millions of users and thousands of businesses experience Nuance’s proven applications. For more information, please visit Trademark reference: Nuance and the Nuance logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of Nuance Communications, Inc. or its affiliates in the United States and/or other countries. All other trademarks referenced herein are the property of their respective owners.

Uber has taken a heavy blow in Australia and as a result, its fare prices could see a significant increase. It's no big secret that Uber is not a traditional employer, as it classifies its drivers as individual contractors rather than actual employees. For that reason, most jurisdictions don't treat Uber as a taxi service when it comes to tax purposes. An Australian court, however, has now ruled that Uber is a taxi service, therefore its drivers would have to pay service tax, local publication Sydney Morning Herald reports. More specifically, this ruling means that Uber drivers in Australia will have to pay a 10 percent goods and services tax (GST) on trips, on top of the commission they already pay Uber. Uber has been trying to fight this since 2015, when the Australian Taxation Office first required the company's drivers to pay GST. That decision placed Uber drivers on par with taxi drivers and classified Uber as a taxi service. Uber appealed the decision and argued that its drivers don't wear uniforms, don't pick up random passengers from the street and don't have cab stands, therefore they should not be classified as taxi drivers. The Tax Office said the "taxi" term encompassed all vehicles for hire transporting passengers from one place to another in exchange for a fare, not just the yellow-painted vehicles with taxi meters. The Australian Federal Court has now sided against Uber as well and ruled that Uber is indeed operating as a taxi service, and its drivers act as taxi drivers. Simply put, Uber is now back to square one. "Uber had fought an 18-month battle to avoid GST, but will now need to work out how to apply the ruling to its 50,000-plus partner-drivers," The Sydney Morning Herald points out. While bad news for Uber and its drivers, the Australian court's decision marks a big win for the government. The GST requirements also involve a certain threshold. Companies with an annual turnover of less than $75,000 don't have to register to pay GST, and Uber argues that most drivers' annual earnings are below $20,000. At the same time, taxi services make up an exception from this rule. Regardless of how much they earn in a year, taxi drivers have to pay GST. Classifying Uber drivers as taxi drivers means they're no longer exempt from the tax. Being classified as individual contractors already meant that Uber drivers had to handle their own taxes, and the extra GST costs fall on their shoulders as well. The taxi industry, meanwhile, welcomes the ruling, especially since it's been losing ground to Uber and other similar services. "UberX drivers cannot expect to be treated as though they operate in a tax-free zone," said Blair Davies, the head of the Australian Taxi Industry Association. They should pay tax just like their taxi driver counterparts." It remains to be seen whether Uber will challenge this decision, but a company spokesperson said it will offer more information to drivers as soon as possible. With this new ruling that forces Uber drivers in Australia to register and pay GST on top of what they pay Uber, there's a good chance that fare prices will see a significant increase to offset the additional costs. Uber has yet to make a statement in this regard, but we'll keep you up to date as soon as it does. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

News Article | November 3, 2015

The Australian Taxation Office has been targeted more than 11,000 times by identity fraudsters attempting to steal tax refunds in the 2014-2015 financial year. And a help-service for victims of identity crime says it is being inundated with taxpayers whose IDs have been hijacked and their tax returns robbed. The 11,000 attempts at ID fraud are part of the wider picture of 91,000 "revenue fraud incidents" recorded on the ATO's systems in 2014-2015. Only the efforts that were detected and foiled are recorded, according to the agency, with the full extent of successful frauds unclear. But iDcare, a service that helps victims rebuild their identities after they have been stolen, says the volume of calls for help it is currently receiving indicates that criminals are reaping a tax-time bonanza from unsuspecting taxpayers. Managing director Dave Lacey said his staff had dealt with at least 400 cases this financial year involving tax refund theft. He said taxpayer money was being lost as the ATO's process was typically to determine an initial refund was fraudulent and then reissue the funds to the victim. "We're in tax fraud season at the moment. It's organised crime. It's big business. This has been going on for months now," he said. Mr Lacey said the biggest impact on victims was often not the initial financial loss but the effect identity theft had on their mental health, with one in five - almost one in four - requiring ongoing mental health support. He said this was largely because of how victims were treated by government agencies and organisations when they tried to follow up on the fraud, seek answers for how it occurred and re-establish themselves. "We test these things continuously and regrettably the standards are very low," Mr Lacey said. Fairfax Media revealed last week that sophisticated cyber-crims had managed to penetrate employers' payroll systems, making off with detailed information on unsuspecting workers and using the data to lodge bogus tax returns. Other victims have told how their legitimate tax refunds had been siphoned off into bank accounts operated by the fraudsters after fake MyGov profiles had been built by the thieves. The ATO says it stopped about $9 million in refunds going out in 2014-2015 after finding they had been fraudulently claimed and the previous year the figure was even higher, with $17 million prevented from being paid amid 18,000 attempts at ID fraud. Victims have complained about a lack of police follow-up, but an ATO spokeswoman said the agency had its own investigators who teamed up with the Australian Federal Police when frontline police powers were needed. "The ATO maintains a criminal investigation capability that investigates significant tax crime matters, which includes identity crime enabled refund fraud and refers briefs of evidence to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration and prosecution," the spokeswoman said. "The AFP executes search warrants in support of ATO investigations and the ATO refers matters to the AFP for investigation when AFP capabilities are required." Do you know more? Email

News Article | September 28, 2015

The NSW Government has suspended the licences of 40 Sydney drivers. The director of safety and compliance at the NSW Roads and Maritime Service, Peter Wells, said ride-sharing services were illegal and the Government had to ensure compliance with regulations, reported the ABC. However Uber, which says it has signed up a million Australian users, has fans in high places. In May, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hailed the service as an example of how the economy could be more “agile” while consumer body Choice has said Uber is just as safe as regular taxis. The controversy is focused on the UberX ride sharing service which enables private car owners, albeit with third-party insurance and GPS tracking, to offer lifts to the public via the Uber app bypassing cabs altogether. “Taxi and hire car services in NSW must be provided by an operator accredited by Roads and Maritime, in a licensed and insured vehicle which is driven by an authorised driver,” Mr Wells said. “If drivers continue to offer illegal ride sharing services — they will continue to risk registration suspensions and fines,” reported the ABC. Mr Wells said that the drivers would be barred from using their vehicles for three months from September 30 and if the car was found on the road the owner could be slugged with a fine of up to $2200 for each offence. Uber said in a statement that it was “shocked that the Roads and Maritime Services did not appear to show these drivers any due process”. “We are reviewing the legal options to reverse this decision,” it said in the statement. Uber has said UberX turns car owners into small business people and allows them to earn extra income while providing a better service than cabs. But an enraged taxi industry has hit back and said UberX drivers undercut fares by avoiding about $50,000 in regulatory fees and are potentially unsafe. Michael Jools from the Australian Taxi Drivers Association told earlier this month that it wasn’t just UberX drivers who were acting against the law — Uber might be as well. “I think Uber is unlawful because it is very much involved in the whole exercise. They say they are merely a technology platform providing an app that people use and that they have nothing to do with how it’s used. “What we are trying to do is have the court declare that Uber is operating illegally, and therefore it must stop,” he said. Attempts by Uber to have the case thrown out of court failed on Friday. Uber is now fighting fires on multiple fronts. Earlier this year, the Australian Taxation Office ordered UberX drivers to charge GST, potentially leading to higher fares. Uber argued that, like many small business people, drivers shouldn’t have to pay tax on income below $75,000. The tax office disagreed and said UberX drivers were no different to cabbies and had to pay GST on all their fares. But Uber has its backers. A report for the Queensland Government by the Economic Policy Group, and obtained by Uber under right to information laws, said banning new entrants into the taxi market was costing Australians dear. “Brisbane consumers were worse off by $40 million a year from restricting Brisbane taxi numbers,” the paper, which was given to the ABC, said. “The damage to the Queensland economy from this kind of over regulation is easy to see and will continue to cause significant economic costs until the constraints on supply are removed.” The Taxi Council of Queensland dismissed the report. Tourism chiefs say market ‘disrupters’ like Uber and accommodation site Airbnb were essential to boost visitor numbers to Australia. While, last week, a study by Choice showed Uber was safe, reliable and, in most cases, cheaper than cabs. “It’s easy to see why the taxi industry is scared of Uber,” said Choice’s Tom Godfrey. “Not because of safety issues, but because of the threat to their profits and their outdated business model.” Uber has said it’s keen for its services to be regulated — just not as regular taxis. Instead, it has suggested to the NSW Government that UberX drivers should face less onerous licence conditions in return for not hailing on streets or taking advanced bookings. However, with the Uber app now a staple feature of many smartphones, the taxi industry is unlikely to give up without a fight. The next battle looms in October when the NSW Government hands down the findings of a taskforce charged with investigating the future of the state’s taxi, hire car and ride sharing industry. “We understand that new technology is disruptive but we believe there is a way forward that provides new economic opportunities for all drivers, including taxi drivers, and choice for riders who love the convenience of services like Uber,” an Uber spokesman told earlier this month.

News Article | April 9, 2015

Optus Business has secured a three-year extension on its managed services contract for voice, data, contact centre, and video conferencing services for the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Optus first nabbed the contract in June 2009, in a four-year deal worth AU$186.5 million at the time. Optus has now secured a three-year extension of the deal, however the value of the deal was not disclosed, and Optus had not confirmed the value at the time of writing. The agreement sees Optus support over 20,000 ATO staff members at 35 locations throughout Australia, including the ATO's contact centre operations. Optus' managing director of Business, John Paitaridis, said in a statement that the ATO took around 69,000 calls per day during the tax period in 2014 between July and October, adding up to 6.2 million calls overall. "We are delivering a large-scale, enterprise-wide, multi-vendor environment tightly integrated to ATO's core systems," Paitaridis said. "We also provide the ATO with a range of project services from office relocations, to complex application development projects to support the ATO's digital innovation programs."

News Article | March 4, 2015

The Australian Treasury Department's Kate Preston has suggested that it is too early into bitcoin's development in Australia to make changes to the tax laws around the cryptocurrency. Preston, who is general manager of the department's Revenue Group, and in charge of advising the government on revenue and taxation policy matters, told a Senate Committee inquiry into the local treatment of digital currencies that the current tax treatment would suffice while the likes of bitcoin are still in their "infancy". "I would say that we have no issues with the way that the ATO has dealt with it," said Preston during an Economics Reference's Committee hearing on Wednesday. "I think we will continue to assess the environment, but I would stress that it is an industry, if you like, that is in its infancy. "To jump in and suggest there should be changes to the tax law to accommodate it is a little bit early in that process," she said. Preston was responding to comments by committee chair Labor Senator Sam Dastyari, who asserted that local bitcoin businesses are likely to move offshore in order to get around the Australian Taxation Office's (ATO) current tax regime for digital currencies. In August, the ATO released its guidance on the taxation treatment of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in Australia, treating digital currencies like bitcoin in the same way as barter transactions with similar taxation consequences, unless it is for business purposes. This treatment of bitcoin and other digital currencies as a commodity, rather than a currency such as the Australian dollar, effectively sees it double taxed; once when it is sold, and again when it is bought. It is a treatment that Australians who work with bitcoin have said is already compelling some businesses to move their operations offshore. "It could result in driving the digital currency businesses that [are] emerging in the sector offshore and potentially underground," chairman of the Australian Digital Currency Commerce Association Ronald Tucker told the committee in November. However, Preston said on Wednesday that any changes made to the Australian government's approach to bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies should begin with its regulatory or legislative framework, rather than its taxation treatment. "The Treasury view would be that, taxation is not where you start," said Preston. Brett Peterson of the ATO's Tax Council Network, however, told the committee hearing that under the present definition of the term "currency" in the taxation laws, if another country unilaterally adopted bitcoin as its official fiat currency, then it could be treated locally as foreign currency, and taxed appropriately. "But that's not a new notion," he said. In fact, Ecuador launched an official government digital currency in February, with the country passing a Bill last July giving its Central Bank the authority to create digital dollars. These digital dollars, however, are not bitcoin. Meanwhile, the director of the Attorney-General's Financial Crime Section, Daniel Mossop, told the committee that cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have evolved in such a way that they are not currently covered by Australia's anti-money laundering regime. "It has a lot of characteristics which make it quite attractive for the use for money laundering and terrorism financing," he told the committee. He added that because bitcoins can be sent peer to peer with no centralised monitoring entity, they can be difficult to track. "They can cross borders, and payments can be made directly to people anywhere in the world," he said. "We can see who's buying [bitcoins] and who's selling them, to a large extent, but we lose visibility of what happens within the system." The comments come as Australian National University's Research School of Economics director professor Rabee Tourky suggested that the Australian government would be better off issuing its own official digital currency as the country moves towards a cashless society. "In 10 years' time, there won't be any paper cash," said Tourky. "The big question is what's going to replace it in Australia? Will it be bitcoin? I don't think so. More likely, it will be 'AusBit', an Australian government-issued digital cash. "It's quite clear that the central bank in Australia is going to have to issue electronic cash," he said. However, echoing Preston's assertions, Tourky warned that sound infrastructure would need to be built before the government could begin treating digital currencies like cash. "Before we start discussion [about] things like taxation on digital currencies, we need infrastructure around it," Tourky told ZDNet. "I don't think we'll see infrastructure emerging around bitcoin that will be stable. "[But] I have absolutely no doubt that in the foreseeable future, we will see a government-issued digital currency," he said.

News Article | April 10, 2015

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey has been warned not to go it alone as he works on new laws to counter tax avoidance by some of the largest companies operating in Australia, including Apple, Google, and Microsoft. The warning, from the OECD's director for tax policy and administration Pascal Saint-Amans, comes as the government reaches a deal with the county's states and territories that will see downloaded music, movies, and books be subject to the national Goods and Services Tax (GST). Hockey said it is an "integrity" measure, and not a broadening of the GST -- something the Coalition had promised it would not do. Under the plan, companies providing an "intangible service" to Australia, wherever they are located, would charge GST on those services. "The states agreed in principle that we should move in that regard, and we have offered to work as quickly as possible with them to introduce legislation to address that," Hockey said on Thursday after meeting with other treasurers. The move, which Hockey said has the potential to generate billions of dollars in revenue, could be followed by a further change involving applying the GST to goods imported online that are valued at less than AU$1,000. The Labor Opposition has also indicated that it will look at the government's proposal, while criticising the government for not targeting the "big end of town". "I've some sympathy for people who say that these internet-provided media products don't pay the GST, but I think we need to go back one step," Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said. Earlier in the week, Shorten also said that he backed the government's plans to tighten tax loopholes of multinational companies operating in Australia. "I think we need to tighten up loopholes as well," said Shorten in an interview on LA FM Launceston radio on Wednesday. "When it comes to multinationals, I think that was probably a more productive area, and billions of dollars can be raised from that, rather than slugging pensioners or people with a GST." Shorten's comments come as Netflix, which launched its online video-streaming service locally last month, has indicated that it would happily add the GST to the cost of its services, provided the government makes it legal. However, Saint-Amans believes that any unilateral approach to effectively taxing international corporations that employ tax loopholes to minimise their taxation requirements in Australia would be fruitless without the support of other countries in the OECD. He told a Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance on Thursday in Canberra that unilateral action would be much less effective than the so-called base erosion and profit-shifting action plan the Paris-based institution has been working on through the G20 since 2013, which is due to be completed by October. "If you act on your own, it is going to be more difficult to fix the issues than if all the countries act together," he told the hearing via video conference. Hockey, however, revealed that the new laws being drafted to combat tax avoidance lie outside of the OECD's global approach. He declined to call it a Google tax -- the nickname given to action taken by the UK government -- but would not speculate on what form it might take. Meanwhile, Treasury deputy secretary Rob Heferen told the Senate inquiry on Thursday that through the work of the OECD, it had found compliance costs would be very low if international providers of imported goods had to register and simply pay the GST. He said there is no legal obstacle to the change. "Australia wouldn't need the agreement of any country to do this. The federal government would need the agreement of the states and territories," said Heferen. During a hearing on Wednesday in Sydney by the Senate inquiry into tax avoidance, executives from Apple, Google, and Microsoft under questioning at the hearing confirmed that they are being investigated by the Australian Taxation Office. The companies have long been in the government's sights for their tax practices, which, in the case of Apple, include the employment of the so-called "double Irish sandwich" method of funnelling profits through its Ireland-listed company in order to pay a lower tax rate in Australia. Meanwhile, much of Google's Australian revenue from advertising is taxed in Singapore, where the tax rate is much lower, the committee heard. This is a practice also employed by Microsoft. Google Australia managing director Maile Carnegie said at the hearing that the company made $58 million in revenue in 2013, and profits of just more than $46 million, but paid $7.1 million in tax. However, Carnegie said the majority of the company's taxes were paid in the United States, because that is where the global headquarters is based, where the company generates the most investment in research and development, and where it undertakes the most risk. "And that in turn is what drives our profits," she said.

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