With the Australian Tax Office (ATO) launching a data-matching campaign to search 30,000 taxpayer records, it has revealed that as many as 150 cases of potential breaches of the property buying laws by foreigners are already under investigation.

Parliamentary secretary to the Treasurer, Kelly O’Dwyer, said the ATO’s investigations could lead to audits and criminal prosecution. Some “inadvertent breaches”, not considered to be criminal, could claim amnesty up to 30 November. The government’s new, tougher laws on foreign buyers then take effect, with punishments for offenders that include three-year jail terms and fines of as much as AU$127,500 for individuals and AU$637,500 for companies.

Under the amnesty, there will be reduced penalties for investors who voluntarily declare a breach of the rules to the Tax Office. The new legislation introduces a AU$5,000 fee on foreign investment in residential properties valued at AU$1million or less, and a AU$10,000 fee on those overAU$1million.