The Australian Taxation Office has revealed it received a record-breaking 15,000 tip-offs to its Tax Integrity Centre in the first quarter of this financial year as the agency continues its crackdown on the black economy.
That equates to a staggering 230 tip-offs per day from concerned informants keen to dob in tax dodgers who refuse to pay their fair share.
In one day in early August alone the ATO received almost 300 tip-offs.
According to the ATO, the most common tax rorts include not declaring income, not reporting sales, demanding cash from customers and paying workers “cash in hand” and having a lifestyle which does not match income.
The hospitality industry – which employs more than 800,000 people – is the biggest offender, followed by the hairdressing and beauty, building and construction, and cleaning industries.
Examples of tip-offs from concerned citizens include a man who built a new house and bought a new car despite “supposedly having $0 income” and a mobile hairdressing and makeup business owner who boasted about fancy holidays and “expensive designer clothes” and jewellery – while getting paid cash in hand with an ABN that didn’t match the business names.
Another was dobbed in for continually selling expensive items including cars on Facebook and Gumtree while not lodging a tax return in nearly a decade.
And earlier this year, a 31-year-old Indian national who was in Australia studying computer networking was sentenced to two years and three months in prison for his involvement in a tax fraud and crime scheme which was first reported via a tip-off from the community.
The black economy is estimated to be as large as $50 billion a year – or around three per cent of Gross Domestic Product.
ATO assistant commissioner Peter Holt recommends those who have made an honest mistake should talk to a tax professional and “immediately come forward” to make a voluntary disclosure.
He also said those intentionally doing the wrong thing were on borrowed time.
“A tip-off from the community could be the missing piece of the puzzle we need to successfully audit or prosecute someone who is illegally operating in the black economy, so we really value and rely on the community letting us know when something doesn’t add up,” he said.
A record 53 per cent of people who provided a tip-off in the first quarter of the financial year provided their contact details to the ATO, a significant increase from the previous period.
The ATO plans to visits 10,000 businesses this financial year as part of their strategy to deal with the black economy.
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