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Re: Am I completely screwed? No tax return for over 25 years...

Newbie

Views 1077

Replies 7

When I was 34 years old, I left Melbourne in 1996 for a year to work in the UK. I've never been back and have been living my life in the UK ever since. I've met many Aussies just like me here, in exactly the same circumstances.

When I left, I just got on a plane and went. I didn't owe anyone anything, all debts cleared. I didn't tell any official authority. I just left. Simple. I was going to be coming back in a year.

I didn't deregister my car with vicroads (it was left in a mates paddock- then got bush-fired)

I didn't tell my super fund that I left.

I didn't tell the ATO I'd left. No tax return since '96.

I didn't tell centrelink that I'd left.

I didn't tell the voting system I'd left.

And lots and lots of other stuff...

 

I still have my Aussie bank accounts (now with my UK address) and am still earning some interest on savings. You don't ever want to close your bank accounts!

 

So in 1999, someone I didn't know living in the unit I had rented, told me the police had knocked on the door asking for me and gave them a letter. The stranger intelligently managed to track me down and emailed me here in London. The letter was a warrant for my arrest! Eventually I managed to back track 3 years and found out that during my absence, I'd failed to vote, had been fined, failed to pay the $10 fine, failed to turn up to court, failed to pay court costs, bailiff costs, more court stuff etc. All automated through computerised billing and fines. I managed from the UK to get everything cancelled, which took a long time and was overseen by someone in Government in Canberra. Phew. I'm not a criminal after all. What a waste of valuable Aussie Police time.

 

I'd like to go back to Aus. I haven't worked for nearly a year now.

 

I've just found out that it's a criminal offence to not tell anyone that you've left. Now, after 25 years! So the minute I step foot back on home soil, I'll be arrested and probably have a million dollars of fines to pay. How do I fix this? I've been paying taxes in the UK and paying whatever is due, even declaring my foreign Aussie bank interest as I'm living here now. I have hardly any savings left. I'm not rich. It was suggested that I simply declare that I'm personally bankrupt.

 

But seriously, what are my options? The story would probably make a good movie!

 

Aussie tax agents have told me I'm screwed and I probably owe about half a mil in fines (that I don't have) plus years of jail time. There must be a solution!? Anyone?

1 ACCEPTED SOLUTION

Accepted Solutions

Most helpful response

ATO Community Support

Replies 5

Hi @Emigrated-1996

 

Sorry to hear about your situation. With regard to your tax obligations, based on what you've said you should be considered a foreign resident for tax purposes because you left Australia permanently. Usually when foreign residents have Australian bank accounts and the bank has your overseas address, they will automatically withhold 10% tax.

 

What I suggest for you to do is contact us to access your records and we can check if we can lodge your outstanding tax returns as not necessary. If not, we can tell you exactly which years need to be lodged and you can print the relevant returns from our website, complete them and send them to us by post. As a foreign resident you only need to declare Australian-sourced income. We may be able to provide you with limited information to help you complete your returns.

 

For any penalties you may have received from us for outstanding obligations you do have the right to request we remit these penalties and this will be considered based on your circumstances.

 

If you do have debt with us then we will work with you and take your circumstances into account in finding an appropriate solution.

 

We are here to help you meet your obligations.

 

Ari

7 REPLIES 7

Taxicorn

Replies 0

@Emigrated-1996 

 

From a tax point of view, you ceased to be an Australian Resident for tax purposes the moment you extended your 12 months visit to permanently stay.

 

So, you technically would have 1 other tax return to complete, depending on when you left. (1997)

 

Centrelink, it would only be an issue if you were receiving money from them after you left.

 

I would also seek free legal advice for any other issues that you may have.

 

Most helpful response

ATO Community Support

Replies 5

Hi @Emigrated-1996

 

Sorry to hear about your situation. With regard to your tax obligations, based on what you've said you should be considered a foreign resident for tax purposes because you left Australia permanently. Usually when foreign residents have Australian bank accounts and the bank has your overseas address, they will automatically withhold 10% tax.

 

What I suggest for you to do is contact us to access your records and we can check if we can lodge your outstanding tax returns as not necessary. If not, we can tell you exactly which years need to be lodged and you can print the relevant returns from our website, complete them and send them to us by post. As a foreign resident you only need to declare Australian-sourced income. We may be able to provide you with limited information to help you complete your returns.

 

For any penalties you may have received from us for outstanding obligations you do have the right to request we remit these penalties and this will be considered based on your circumstances.

 

If you do have debt with us then we will work with you and take your circumstances into account in finding an appropriate solution.

 

We are here to help you meet your obligations.

 

Ari

Newbie

Replies 4

Thanks Guys. So I think the answer is yes. I'm screwed. But there is some good news- I think!

 

Well I found my old online log in (which still works!). Took me a while to work out what it was in the absence of any paperwork or records. I have more than 10 years of tax logements missing. The records stop at ten years... I presume ATO give up or assume I'm dead or something.

 

And lots of payment notices and threats of legal action. And legal action. And failure to disclose. And fines. And accumulated fines, now maxed out for every year missing. And lots of interest owing. And lots of failing to pay. And more fines.

 

So I looked online (and had an old friend make some enquiries for me). Apparently I was taken to court, and naturally didn't turn up. Then I had bailiff charges and then they wanted to recover their costs. Another court thing. Plus more.

 

So when I phoned the courts and the legal secretary in Melbourne, I was told there is no arrest warrant as far as she knows. But there are 7 different claims from various agencies claiming costs, fees and charges. All overdue. For more than 10 years. I owe an estimated AU$186,000.

 

So the police are not looking for me, as far as I know (I hope) -Good news. My bank account still is working and the money hasn't been seized. I have a TFN on the account, so there haven't been any witholding charges on the interest. But I also found out that any interest is taxable at 30% if I'm officially non resident!!!! So maybe that's where the owed money is from.

 

From everything I've found out so far, I'm not sure it'd be a good idea to return home. Chances are that I'll get through immigration at passport control, then someone will approach me and haul me off to a room for interrogation under bright lights. 

 

I might just transfer the remaining savings to the UK and close the account. I was also talking to some other Aussies I know here in the UK about this situation. We're all running from "the Law" in Aus, from "failure to notify" charges, as they're called. Crazy system. If you do nothing when you depart Aus as an innocent person, you still get in trouble and end up guilty. Mad. I can't believe how many Aussies are here in the UK 'permanently'.

 

I also phoned a Lawyer. He spoke to some people and told me that this will be very expensive to rectify, as so many things have happened. It's complicated. The legal costs will be at least $20,000. And they would like some money (half) up front as I'm not in Aus.

 

I'm not happy about this.

Former Community Support

Replies 3

Hi @Emigrated-1996,

 

That's quite a series of events to digest. Wow. I truly hope things get sorted out for you, and if you need anything more from our little Community let us know!

Newbie

Replies 2

I was wrong. There is an arrest warrant out for me AND my wife! But we've done nothing wrong....! The cops won't tell me what it's for. Actually I don't think they know either, as their system doesn't elaborate. Just some fed court actions it says on their screen.

 

So summary... I leave Aus as an innocent happy true blue Aussie. Live in the Uk a few years, then want to return home. But the minute I set foot back on home soil I'll be arrested. No welcome home for me...

 

I've made a lot of phone calls. So far, it seems there is nothing I can do except pay all the fines and go to court. So no matter what, it looks like I'm going to jail; I don't have that kind of money.

 

But I've also been struggling to find any flights because of the gov's great ideas to limit the number of arrivals from abroad. I can get 1st or business class, but no economy available right now. The world has gone mad. So much for the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. 99.5% of the population has to suffer for the 0.5% right now. If this were immigration or race related, I reckon it'd be very different. A minority group is usually exactly that...

 

Not sure what else to do right now. Anyone else reading this, I'd be open to any ideas!

ATO Community Support

Replies 1

Hi @Emigrated-1996,

 

It sounds like you need to start somewhere, Ari has provided some good advice. You can get in contact with us to determine what needs to be lodged. You can also put through Non Lodgement advices for the years you don't have to lodge. Once this is completed you can speak to our debt area and request remission on the Failure To lodge (FTL) amounts.

 

If you have not voted then you could also get in contact with the Australian Electoral Commission. Once you initiate some steps in sorting this out I'm sure it will assist you in working towards resolving the matter.

 

I hope this helps.

Newbie

Replies 0

Thanks for the encouragment. Much appreciated.

 

Ok, so I found a tax agent who I had to pay $300 up front, as I'm not in Aus. He's made a few calls and we've figured out that the amount I owe ATO has now been reduced to about $60,000 at first estimates. But that doesn't include all the other court related stuff. And police stuff. He can't help me with that.

 

He thinks if ATO are feeling generous, the non-logement fines and rolling interest could be cancelled, which might bring it down to about $48k. Money I don't have in cash. And I'm not earning, so the interest will keep on growing. The interesting thing is that there are no 100% clear rules and it appears to be a discretionary matter. Technically I owe nothing except 30% on interest earned on savings that have been building up over the last 25 years, because I was non-resident. No tax has been paid on the interest as there's a TFN lodged on the account. He reckons I owe about $12k, but it's tricky to work out as the amounts for each year have changed. AND I've declared and already paid tax on the interest to the UK gov, which is where I'm living. Technically, I could have that reversed, but in the UK, the reclaim time limit is 7 years. So I could get a double tax bill, even though it should only be one. He doesn't know the UK tax system only the Aussie one. Now I need an international tax consultant!

 

TBH I thought individuals only pay tax in the country on "any earnings" where they live (in that country- the UK for me). Who would have believed that I have to pay Aussie tax on my Aussie savings as well as UK tax on my Aussie savings. It's like I end up with no interest and I'm actaully losing money. Who knew. Still, doesn't sound right though. I was proud to pay my taxes to Aus as I know what it goes towards, unlike here in the UK- a black hole.

 

Well, I'm not coming home until I know I won't be arrested when I arrive at the airport terminal. So a few other things to sort out first. Seems like the tax situation is the least of my problems! Plus flights are non existant with the virus....