The ATO and MONA

26 July 2012

Professor Michael Dirkis comments on the dispute between the Australian Taxation Office and the founder of the Museum of Old and New Art.

MONA founder, Mr David Walsh is facing a $37 million tax bill based on profits from a gaming system he created.

According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, the office recently ruled that Mr Walsh and others were running a $2.4 billion gambling business.

Mr Walsh is contesting the claim and will be in court next month to fight paying the tax bill, plus interest, calculated from the years 2003 to 2006.
The report adds that until now, gambling winnings in Australia have seldom been taxable.

Professor Michael Dirkis says the ATO has been fairly silent on them since losing three cases in the 1980s.

A potential downside for the tax office was that if people were treated as professional gamblers they might claim gambling losses, Professor Dirkis asserts.

"Picking winners is not really the way you want to run a tax system."

He adds that what makes the case widely interestingis Mr Walsh's community generosity.

"Despite all the successful entrepreneurs we have in Australia, none of them seem to have given that level of money back to the community," he said.

The report states that the $180 million museum has drawn 600,000 visitors in its first 18 months, it has won the 2012 Australian Tourism Award for best new development, and is Tasmania's single most visited attraction.

Support floods in for MONA founder in tax row - Sydney Morning Herald

Contact: Greg Sherington

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