Crocodile Dundee (back) in Los Angeles
By NED BELLY
MOST OF US have no option of avoiding income taxes. The authorities will either nab us at source (IRPF/PAYE) or, if autónomo (self-employed), we will be required to present a rigorously-monitored folder of documents every three months to report revenue, justify expenses and hand over collected IVA.
We don’t have the luxury of tax havens or sharp tax lawyers and finance experts, so few of us would have much sympathy for the increasing number of high-profile celebrities caught fiddling the system, in Spain and Australia.
There is a limit, however, and Project Wickenby, Australia’s $300 million tax fraud investigation, went far too far in slapping a Departure Prohibition Order on veteran actor Paul “Crocodile Dundee” Hogan.
It might eventually be shown that Hogan, or his advisers, did bend the rules but everyone deserves a fair go, especially an iconic figure whose “I’ll slip an extra shrimp on the barbie for you” tourism campaign 25 years ago (he offered to do the ads for free) did so much for Australian tourism – and Australia’s tourist coffers.
As he is quoted in The Australian, “I’m not devastated – I don’t do devastation. But I am staggered by the grotesqueness of this.”
Hogan is now back in Los Angeles, arriving two days after the tax office lifted the ban – and, in characteristically comical form, leaving Australia wearing a false moustache.
The Australian Taxation Office had forced him to stay in Australia until he paid or reached agreement to settle a claim for an estimated $95 million, including penalties and interest. The ATO alleges that one of the ways he avoided tax was by using “residency schemes”: that is, officially being a resident neither in Australia nor in the US, where he had his temporary home when receiving the relevant payments. Hogan has always denied any wrong-doing and has not been charged.