There are currently close to 100 serious criminal tax offence matters before the courts across the country. This is a result of government agencies working together to catch tax offenders and bring them to justice.
Serious fraud offences that go before the courts include use of falsified invoices to claim deductions not entitled to, GST refund fraud, excise fraud (alcohol and fuel tax credit fraud), identity crime with suspected links to overseas organised crime groups, and income tax refund fraud.
The courts view tax crime seriously and will impose lengthy gaol sentences for the worst offenders. This year gaol sentences have included an 8 year term of imprisonment (with 5 years to serve) for a man who claimed large false diesel fuel rebate claims.
“These people are the worst kind of tax cheats. They were calculated in their attempts to – deliberately commit fraud and evade their tax obligations, ultimately stealing from the Australian public, and placing an unfair burden on others who are doing the right thing” Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston said.
Mr Cranston said that the ATO, Australian Federal Police, the Australian Crime Commission and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution (CDPP) work closely together, along with other relevant agencies, as part of a whole-of-government approach to address tax crime and ensure serious offenders are caught and face the full force of the law. The ATO has a role in detecting, investigating and referring matters for prosecution to the CDPP.
“We have sophisticated systems in place to detect and catch those who do the wrong thing. Our current focus for prosecution referrals is on wealthy individuals who engage in serious evasion, as well as promoters and facilitators of tax fraud including those in positions of trust such as accountants and lawyers.” Mr Cranston said.
Deputy Director CDPP, James Carter said that as an independent prosecution service, the CDPP works with partner agencies to advance their goals and priorities through prosecution in accordance with the Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth.
“Tax fraud prosecutions protect the revenue, ensuring that offenders are brought to justice and potential offenders are deterred”.
In a recent matter Her Honour Judge Mary Sexton of the Melbourne County Court said “Tax fraud is not a victimless crime. Tax revenue funds essential services that the community relies upon including schools and healthcare and it’s important we protect our tax system.”
In addition to gaol time, courts also may impose fines and other penalties including reparation orders, where offenders are ordered to repay stolen funds, and proceeds from crime may be seized.
People who are unclear of their tax or superannuation obligations, or are struggling to meet their obligations, should contact the ATO on 13 28 61 to discuss their situation.
[ATO/CDPP media release, 19 April 2015] [LTN 73, 20/4/15]