In recent months the government has been strengthening Australia’s foreign investment framework, including transferring all foreign residential real estate functions from the Treasury department to the ATO.
The ATO said it has around 150 investigations open at the moment, with the Sydney residence under investigation after it was purchased under a company/trust structure.
“One current investigation involves a non-resident who appears to be the beneficial owner of a Sydney home worth tens of millions of dollars,” an ATO spokesperson said.
“The home is owned via a company/trust structure, where the ‘straw director’ of this structure is a relative of the real offshore owner.”
The spokesperson also said the ATO would be using this investigation to examine the roles played by advisers in setting up the ownership structure.
The investigation follows the forced sale of Villa De Mare, the $39 million Point Piper house which was found to have been illegally purchased by the Golden Fast Food company.
Despite being based in Sydney, Chinese ownership of the company meant the purchase breached foreign ownership laws and in November last year the company was given 90 days to sell the property.
In May the government announced temporarily reduced penalties, including 12 months to divest ownership of an illegally owned property and no referral Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for criminal prosecution, which would be applied on a case by case