Hundreds of foreign investors come forward under amnesty

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More than 100 foreign owners of Australian real estate have come forward under a current amnesty period being offered by the Federal Government.

Under the amnesty, which runs until 30 November, foreign investors who have knowingly or unknowingly breached Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) regulations can declare themselves and avoid prosecution.

While the amnesty guarantees no prosecution, foreign investors who come forward and are found to have breached FIRB rules will be required to sell the property.

According to a report this week in the Australian edition of The Guardian, so far 125 foreign investors have declared themselves to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), which took over the investigation of illegal purchases by foreign investors earlier this year.

Aside from those who have come forward voluntarily, an ATO spokeswoman told The Guardian it is investigating hundreds of possible breaches across the country.

“Across our foreign real estate investment investigation program, we have already identified possible breaches and we have about 500 cases on hand, with about 400 of those coming from community disclosures,” the spokeswoman said.

“In terms of real estate, we are investigating properties located across all states and territories – while there are no specific trends, the majority of cases are related to properties in metropolitan areas.” she said.

While a number of high-profile FIRB breaches have made the headlines this year, the spokeswoman told The Guardian the purchases being investigated varied across a range of property types and that third party facilitators are also under watch.

“In our investigations across Australia we are seeing a range of properties, from apartments, to suburban houses, to waterfront properties worth tens of millions,” she said.

“Some of these investigations are indicating the involvement of third parties. We are looking closely at agents, accountants, lawyers and financial advisers who may be facilitating illegal property purchases.”

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