The Australian Taxation Office has claimed its first scalp since taking on a compliance role over foreign investment in local real estate.
Treasurer Scott Morrison said he had ordered a foreign national to sell a house in the Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn East, valued at more than $5 million, which the ATO discovered had been bought without government approval.
“The property is the first such house to be detected by the newly established ATO foreign investment task force, which has sophisticated data-matching capabilities,” Mr Morrison said.
"This divestment shows that the coalition government's increased compliance measures, which critically include transferring responsibility for residential real estate enforcement to the ATO, are working.”
Mr Morrison said he had also ordered foreign nationals to sell six other residential properties, based in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.
The coalition government has now ordered the forced divestment of 19 properties since taking office in 2013 – and expects more to follow, according to Mr Morrison.
“The government's transfer of responsibility to the ATO for compliance has enabled more active investigations and actions targeting illegitimate purchases,” he said.
“Since this transfer in May, over 1,044 matters have been investigated. Through information provided by the public, together with our own enquiries, we now have 532 cases under active investigation.”
The government’s most notable scalp occurred in March, when it ordered a foreign investor to offload a $39 million Sydney mansion.
Since then, the government has introduced a tougher compliance regime, under which agents could be fined or jailed if they knowingly help foreign investors flout the rules.