Melbourne, April 3 : The Australian Taxation Office is investigating the affairs of late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin and his wife Terri over an offshore scheme involving their Australia Zoo wildlife business.
The tax scheme is linked to a 2.56 million dollars civil lawsuit against Irwin and Australia Zoo.
According to some documents, the Australia Zoo, based in Beerwah, on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, paid 600,000 dollars a year in fees to a Singapore-based company, later raided by the tax office, for advice on its business structure.
The tax scheme enabled Australia Zoo to claim significant tax deductions.
However, it is now facing problem as the zoo's manager has confirmed that the business is in talks with the tax office over the legitimacy of arrangements it entered into.
The documents also showed that the zoo's assets were valued at 111 million dollars in 2005 and it's operation made a 9 million dollars profit that financial year.
According to minutes of a meeting attended by Steve and Terri Irwin, profits greater than 10 per cent return on capital were to be set aside to remunerate Australia Zoo staff as part of an employee entitlement fund.
The minutes further reveal that the use of a Dutch company to manage the fund will, in part, 'allow for much lower' tax being paid.
According to the Australia Zoo, some of the companies it dealt with were not legitimate and that it was the 'unwitting' victim of a 'highly sophisticated case of deception'.
"We maintain an excellent relationship with the ATO, and have never pursued any illegal means to evade paying tax," News.com.au quoted Australia Zoo manager Frank Muscillo, as saying.
Muscillo said that the zoo was working with the tax office in a bid to seek a ruling on various tax arrangements.
He said as soon as its advisers were informed that companies they had been dealing with were not authorised to conduct certain transactions, it had stopped the arrangements.
And the tax scheme has resulted in Irwin being sued by a company called Alyssa Treasury Services in the Victorian County Court, which is seeking 60,000 dollars from her and another 2.5million dollars from Australia Zoo in allegedly unpaid debts.