ATO GST fraud

Photo of Serious Financial Crime Taskforce coordinated action. Image supplied on the ATO website.

A pervasive criminal threat involves individuals inventing fake businesses and submitting fictitious Business Activity Statements to gain a false GST refund. This is a serious tax fraud which steals funds that otherwise could have been used to benefit the Australian community.

The ATO-led Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) recently launched an operation to crackdown on GST fraud and send a clear signal to perpetrators that it is only a matter of time before they are caught.


Operation Protego

The SFCT launched a coordinated action on 15, 16 and 17 June in 12 locations across NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia, and Queensland. “Operation Protego” saw warrants executed against 19 individuals suspected of being involved in GST fraud.

As part of the raids, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), with the support of the Australian Federal Police (AFP), collected evidence, intelligence, and information to support its ongoing investigations.

The SFCT was further supported by Victoria Police, NSW Police, Qld Police Service, SA Police, Tasmania Police and WA Police in the operational activity.

This coordinated activity follows the arrests of six individuals earlier in June in Victoria in connection to the fraud.


Consequences for GST fraudsters

If you engage in tax fraud, the best case is that you will need to repay amounts fraudulently obtained in full. The worst case is that you will go to jail.

ATO Deputy Commissioner and SFCT Chief Will Day said these warrants followed warnings last month for participants to come forward before stronger action was taken. However, despite these strong warnings, Mr Day said people were still attempting to engage in this fraud.

“The ATO has stopped more than a billion dollars in attempted fraud. This is a clear warning to individuals considering participating – you will not be successful, you are not anonymous, and you will face the consequences of your attempts.

“This week’s activity in relation to Operation Protego will most definitely not be the last,” Mr Day said.

“For those that have already committed this fraud, we know who you are, and you will need to repay the fake refunds you have obtained. You could face severe consequences, including jail if you do not speak to us before we knock on your door. Come forward now or face potentially tougher penalties.


The issue of identity theft

In some cases, people have been tricked into handing over their personal details to fraudsters, such as their myGov login details. These details can then be used to impersonate the victim and engage in tax fraud, or they may be sold to other criminals.

The ATO says “If you have given your myGov details to a criminal it is vital you contact us so that we can assist you to protect your identity from being used to commit further crimes, including further tax crime in your name. For any matters where you believe your identity has been compromised, phone us on 1800 467 033 for assistance.”


Key takeaways

GST fraud is a serious crime which impacts the Australian community. The ATO-led Serious Financial Crime Taskforce is cracking down on these crimes, as evidenced by the recent Operation Protego. The ATO is advising people engaging in this fraud to cease this activity and come forward to the authorities, to avoid potential jail time. Everyday Australians are being advised to be vigilant with their personal details, such as their myGov login details, which criminals could use to commit tax fraud in their name.

Nyman Gibson Miralis provides expert advice and representation in cases involving tax fraud.

Contact us if you require assistance.