ATO demands decades of property records in foreign buyer investigation

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In just over a week since foreign investors looking to buy Australian real estate became subject to stricter laws, one Federal government department has ramped up its efforts to weed out illegal owners.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO), which was handed more powers to investigate foreign buyers under the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Legislation Amendment Bill 2015, is set to comb through decades worth of property records in an attempt to discover illegal purchases.

According to a report in Fairfax media outlets, the ATO has asked revenue and land title authorities from all states to provide them with information for the 32-year period from 1985 – 2017.

The ATO has asked those authorities for all the information they have relating to property sales, sub-divisions, land transfers and valuation details from that period.

Rental bond authorities will also be required to hand over information pertaining to leased properties including  rental payments, length of lease, bond amount and landlord details.

The ATO’s request estimates that it will receive 30 million records for each year from revenue and land title authorities and another one million records for each year from rental bond authorities.

In total the ATO estimates it will comb through records belonging to around 11.3 million individuals.

“The property data will be used to assist in the screening of foreign resident real estate applications and compliance activity to ensure foreign residents are complying with relevant laws,” an ATO spokesperson told Fairfax.

According to the ATO, the investigation will help it identify any trends of non-compliance and help it strengthen community confidence in Australia’s foreign investment laws.

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